One extraordinary love.
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.
I was delaying reading this book for two reasons:
1. I would love to like it as much as the reviews, and I'm afraid I won't. I like Fangirl and I have high expectations for this one.
2. The setting and time frame of 1986 daunts me a little. I love the eighties but am not sure about reading a book about the 80s.
I was proven wrong for both counts.
First off, this reads like a fresh contemporary YA romance. True, it's got the cliches of star-crossed lovers who might not even be in each other's radar if not for this so-called thing called fate, and it's got the classic set-up of youthful love. It even gets as far as mentioning Romeo and Juliet. But then, it's about first loves, and the theme never gets old as long as the execution is new. And what can I say, the execution is splendid.
I like the first chapters, they create a setting for both characters to meet perfectly. I find the middle parts floundering, but the last couple of chapters feel so heartbreaking and raw I just can't read fast enough.
Both characters are not your typical jock/cheerleader/popular people/total outcasts/spunky teen either. Eleanor might look like a spunky outcast on the outside but I love that she's got insecurities. Park is not your next door hunk either - he's Asian and in a town when he's the only one who looks it, apart from his Mom, he's got his own problems and perspective for popularity.
Their romance feels right. I don't need to be told it is, because I feel it. I feel like feeling that fluttery butterflies in my stomach again because I'm reading about their romance. It feels authentic, and I think that's what Rainbow Rowell excels in most - that, and dialogue. She can create amazing chemistry whenever she writes.
The ending feels a bit sad, but I guess bittersweet in some ways. I like it as much as I do Fangirl, but then if I'm asked to compare between the two, I can't because they're two different things, and they're both charming books.
So while I won't rave about Eleanor and Park that much, I do feel I'll read it again from time to time, and fall in love with them all over again, quietly. Because it's that kind of book - a slice of life, nothing much might be going on with the plot until the last parts, but these are the parts of life that mean the most.
Note: the synopsis and cover win my heart big time.