I wanted to like Eleanor and Park more than I did. The book is engaging and well written, with great character development and an amazing description of the joys of holding hands. The story, summed up by the tag line “a touching tale of two misfits who find where they fit is together” is the kind of thing I usually love.
The problems with the book are twofold: 1) the narrative style, 2) the undercurrent of sadness and unease that permeates the story.
Let’s start with style, since as we all know, style before substance (hee) . Though written in the third person, the book ping-pongs back and forth between Eleanor and Park. Some of the narratives are super-short, others much longer. This approach is a tad exhausting, inducing a sort of reader-whiplash.
The second problem is the sadness. And to be fair, this is probably more my issue. After all, it is fair to write a sad book. But stories that contain abuse and bullying are tough for me to get through. And the unclear resolution of the book left me hanging.
What I like about the book are the main characters, Eleanor and Park. By the end of the book the reader really gets them, their external appearance, their thoughts, what makes them tick and what they really like about the other. This is no small achievement, and it is, in the end, what makes Eleanor and Park worth reading despite the hiccups mentioned above.
Rating: ** (out of ****)