Monday, December 16, 2013

Eleanor & Park

I approached this book with some apprehension. I saw some rave reviews about it and it seemed to gain a quick following, that intrigued me, however I still made no effort to get the book and read it. It was super popular and I tend to step away from such things because I'm strange. Then I saw a few people give the book negative reviews and it intrigued me more. What was it about this book that was getting everyone's attention?

Well, their attention got mine and I picked up the book and flew through it.

It was easy enough to fly through this book, the chapters are short, everything's broken up, and it's all internal dialogue of Eleanor and Park's obsession with one another. There's little description of what goes on around them, instead, I felt like I was reading the diary of each character. Description, detail, beautiful prose was severely lacking in this book. I couldn't very well picture where the characters' lived, other than their bedrooms, because they often left out those details.

That would be the negative side, if there were to be one, that this reads like a diary. Description and deep thoughts are not a plenty with this book and I feel it greatly sums up YA literature of this day: It's about falling in love and whether or not its true love, etc etc. 

I often hear complaints about YA books being all the same and by same, I mean they're all about love and that finding your true love is way important. I suppose as a teen that was a major plot point of my own life: I wanted to fall in love. Now as an adult I look back and think it was time wasted and often forget that "finding love" was such a prominent thing in my life. Instead I think of what I did with friends and my past times.

For Eleanor and Park it is the center of the world. Well, for Park more so than for Eleanor in my own opinions. They come from opposite worlds. Park's family is middle class. His mother is Asian, his father is Irish, and besides his father being hard on him for "being a pansy" he has never been without. 

Eleanor's family is extremely large and extremely poor. Her mother is married to an alcoholic who regularly abuses her mother and has already kicked Eleanor out once. She lives in fear at her home and is tormented at school for the unusual clothing she wears.

This, this right here I found interesting. The blend of different cultures was great. The fact that the main characters was an Asian teen boy and a heavy red headed girl from a poor family was a nice touch because it's rare. Again, most often with YA books the characters are white, perfect, and gorgeous. There's more to the teenage world than that! 

I also appreciate seeing real life problems. Mainly what Eleanor was dealing with: her family struggling, not having much money, and the problem of her stepfather. For Eleanor, this was a major piece or her life and it often, understandably, overshadowed the importance of Park. For Park it seemed that his real life issues were often second to his feelings for Eleanor. (He struck me as a bit obsessed at times)

So this book definitely had its good and bad sides to it. I find that when it comes to YA fiction it either needs to completely remove me from this world (huzzah, scifi and fantasy!) and do a good job of removing me from this world as well, or it has to be engaging and deal with real life difficulties that I often feel are shied away from. This book had what I dislike about the current theme of YA fiction but it also had what I appreciate. 

Would I read the book again? Eh... probably not. Would I suggest it to others to read? Yes, if they are interested in a quick read that's engaging enough but nothing that really pulls on the heart strings.

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