We came from a family of writers. Alas, we can't write. So we blog about our love for books instead.
Based on the first few chapters, I really thought I was going to like this novel a lot. Set in the 1980s, it has a lot of material to pull from to invoke a sense of nostalgia, from music (The Smiths, Joy Division, The Cure) to comic books (X-Men) to TV shows (Wheel of Fortune and ermm... Saturday Night Live and MTV). How the characters Eleanor and Park, both misfits in a way, meet and slowly get to know each other is filled with interesting conversations like about why X-Men is sexist, and tender, realistic descriptions of momentous occasions like when the characters first hold hands.
I felt that the author was especially spot on when she lets us in on what Park is thinking and feeling, like how he admits to himself that it was nice to have had the most popular girl in the neighborhood as his first girlfriend because it's enough to save him from bullying. It makes him an imperfect character, but it also makes him human. I also like that Park is half-Asian, just because there are hardly any Asian protagonists in American literature or films, as Park himself points out.
Unfortunately, the last half of the book was a huge letdown for me. The scenes with Eleanor and her mom and siblings, all living in terror of her stepfather, start to feel repetitive and heavy-handed. Even Park's relationship with his father feels strange to me, and I don't really feel that I fully understood the dynamics behind it. By the time Eleanor escapes her home life and the book ends with Park sitting around waiting to hear from her, I can hardly bring myself to care that much.
There is much to like about Eleanor & Park, despite how uneven it felt to me. I would probably still check out Ms. Rowell's books in the future.