Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.
Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
My main issue with the book is that it’s just… average. There’s a female character who is bullied by superficial characters and has a shit home life and she connects with a nice boy. It is more of a subdue romance, which can be nice, but it needs to have something to add depth to the story. Unfortunately, it didn’t. It was just a shallow plot surrounding a cute romance.
Every promotion that I have seen of the book is that it reminds the older readers of their teenage romance. Maybe it’s because it’s set in the 80s (even though it could have been set today and nothing would have been different). The romance between Park and Eleanor wasn’t something that I loved or could have related to, but it does seem genuine. It wasn’t exciting until the ending, and that felt far too forced and uncomfortable to be enjoyable.
We are also expected to sympathise with Eleanor. I know that she has a shitty home life and the relationship with her step-father is a big plot point, but that didn’t help. Apart from Eleanor caring about her mother, there was nothing that made me want to like her. Park was nice and a typical teenager, but I didn’t really care about him either. Though, it is nice for the female lead to be interested in a good person instead of a misunderstood jerk.
I might be overthinking it, but it did feel like Park was there to save Eleanor and Eleanor had to be a mystery that Park needed to figure out. This is common with stories in one way or another, but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it. It’s important, and probably more interesting, for there to be a balance between the two.
Park is half-Korean and while it is good to have diversity, the way his skin was described was often a little bit awkward. If you think about it, the way Park is constantly represented as a feminine male (which there needs to be more of) can be racist because Asian males are always seen as feminine. The mother was also a bit stereotypical. I’m not certain, but I think Eleanor’s two friends were black, and they were just there to be ‘sassy’. They weren’t even relevant to the plot. Rowell tried to be diverse, which is good, but she could have done a better job.
I’ll give it 5.5/10.