As you read this blog, I must warn that you will find, honest thoughts, ambitions, and hopes from my mind.
WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD!
I asked for this book for Christmas, and following a heavy second semester of my second year at university, I didn’t feel like I had much time to read, at least not without feeling guilty for it not being an assigned academic reading. So now that I have finished for the year and have a long summer ahead of me, I decided to finally get into it. I was halfway through the book and decided to read more tonight for some light reading before bed.
That was at 8PM. It’s now 12:25PM and I’ve just finished it.
AND BOY WAS I NOT READY FOR THAT EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER!
At face value, this is just another boy-meets-girl Young Adult book. New girl at school, girl and boy fall in love, etc etc. BUT IT IS SO MUCH MORE! So please do not dismiss it as a book that is too young for you – it hits on so many important issues that, yes, are centred around teens, but that will hit home with anyone reading it. Family life, body confidence issues, anxiety – all covered exceptionally well by Rainbow Rowell, who coordinates these deep issues with interspersed comedy, making it the most enjoyable read I’ve had in a while.
Eleanor is the new girl at school, large and awkward, with a difficult family life. Park is the opposite – a wallflower, lived in the neighbourhood forever, and generally has a happy home. The two are forced to sit together on the bus, and eventually bond over comics and music, falling in love. This book is set in the 80s, so is a refreshing romance filled with mixtapes and Walkmans, without the drama of social media interference.
The book starts with a page of Park talking about giving up on Eleanor, and resolving to stop trying to ‘bring her back’. This completely threw me off – who are these characters, why is this here, what am I supposed to feel?! And that ‘bring her back’ is so ambigious – did they break up? Did she move away? Did she run away? DID SHE DIE?!?!?! It reminded me a lot of John Green’s ‘Looking For Alaska’, where Miles is constantly talking about Alaska as ‘gone’ but not confirming what that meant. So I started the book with so many questions already. Thanks a lot, Rowell.
I fell in love with Eleanor. I sympathised with the fact that she was this large girl with a lot of insecurities about her body image – I know how tough it can be to feel like that, especially in a high school setting. Her constant doubting that Park could ever love her, her flinching when he touched areas she hated like her stomach, all rang so true with me. I could not sympathise as much with her family situation – I am fortunate enough to come from a loving family who support me. It angered me that anyone should experience the home life she did, and I know her situation is one that many children unfortunately live in around the world.
I predicted very early on that her family life would be the reason Park and Eleanor were not together any more. At first I believed she would run away – I know I would. But as the book progressed, I feared that her stepfather Richie would eventually kill her – the drunken, abusive, selfish asshole that he is led me to believe that he certainly could. I was relieved to discover she had ran away in the end, because I do believe Richie would have at least hurt her physically had she not. Whilst I was distraught that something the couple could never have done anything about was what drove her away, I completely agree with her decision to leave, and I am so thankful that Park was supportive enough to help her, no matter how much it hurt him.
Park’s pain at Eleanor’s absence and silence destroyed my heart. His constant checking of the mail and writing of endless letters hurt me deep, and all I wanted was for Eleanor to reply. As she sat with the letters, struggling with what to respond, I wanted to scream at her just to write SOMETHING! Put the boy out of his misery! I know she had to leave, and I understand her wanting to cut it off so it would hurt her less, but God did I hate her. Descriptions of her in this new house and at this new school made me so angry, knowing that Park was left behind in this world that had been turned upside down. The descriptions of his rebellion, his dark makeup and loud music, made me just want to hug him close. Rowell’s depiction of a broken Park was so excellently done – not pages and pages of anguish, but succint paragraphs of what he was doing. Finding out he’d gone to prom with another girl hurt me, but not as much as how he felt being with her. This guy was so broken, how could he be left like this?
But the ending. THE ENDING! Rowell, how could you?! Park smiling, finally feeling hope after all this pain, receiving a postcard from Eleanor. Even if it just had three words written on it. AND THEN YOU DON’T TELL ME WHAT THOSE WORDS ARE?!?!?! I threw the book across the room and broke down crying for a good 20 minutes. Yes, I am an emotional wreck, and no, I do not care in the slightest if you judge me for it. This book was so excellently written, and Rowell transformed those characters into people I genuinely cared for, that of course I cried when I wasn’t given that happy ending I craved. After all this hurt that Park has endured, and all the hesitant moments with Eleanor not knowing what to write, you’re not going to tell me what she said?! I was angry, I was disappointed. As the tears have now stopped, I do reluctantly agree that the ending was highly appropriate. We shouldn’t know what she said. If she’d finally said ‘I love you’, then I’d be so much angrier at her for ripping open that hole in Park again after a year of silence. If she’d told him to stop writing, I would have hated her for being so callous and not saying anything more. The ambiguity of the ending, whilst frustrating, is appropriate. Whatever she said, it made Park smile, and after all that pain he’s suffered, I am glad she could at least do that.
I hope anyone reading this HAS read the book, otherwise I’ve totally spoiled it for you, but if anyone hasn’t, then I urge you to go online and order yourself a copy now. I found the story to be mesmerising and the characters truly captured my heart. You are in for a gut-wrenching story but it is worth it.
This is my first book review, so apologies if it isn’t the best, but I’ve tried to do the book justice. I become very emotionally involved with books, and hate not being able to discuss them with anybody, so this is my way of getting around them. It’s a bit therapeutic for me to write down my feelings like this, so I hope you enjoyed reading it, and I’ll endeavour to write more book reviews like this in the future. Please feel free to comment what you thought of the book!