Book Review: The Most Frustrating Cliffhanger I Have Ever Encountered

[The post was originally drafted on Thursday, March 6, 2014]

Have you ever just read a book and it just completely messed you up?

Well, seeing as it’s currently 1:49 in the morning and I have an 8:30am class later, I would say that I am currently in that state.

My eyes are burning, my breathing is thick like it doesn’t want to leave my throat and yet I am completely wide awake. Wired, as if I downed a week’s worth of caffeine, but too anxious to put any of this energy to good use like to do reading for classes or study for a midterm.

I can’t stop thinking. My brain won’t turn off.

The cause this week?

Two causes actually.

Eleanor and Park.

"Eleanor and Park" by Rainbow Rowell (Picture from Goodreads)

“Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Rowell (Picture from Goodreads)

Yet another novel by Rainbow Rowell but this one is geared towards younger folk (think high school students) and it takes place in 1986. I’m not sure how much time I spent reading the book since I first picked it up from the local library but I can confirm that a part of me has been itching to read more and more since I began.

Eleanor and Park is about two outcasts, well, misfits, well, perhaps goodreads does a better job of summing it up:

“Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.”

And boy, does it pull you under! This book had me on a roller coaster of ups and downs the entire novel as it shifts between Park’s and Eleanor’s perspectives. I’d like to say that I favor one over the other (it depends on the point in the story), but honestly, I feel for both of them.

What’s interesting about this novel (something that Fangirl, another book by Rowell has in common) is that there are some loose ends that are never tied up. In Fangirl, these loose ends pertain to Cath’s mother and her relationship with Levi (and Nick for that matter). In Eleanor and Park, it is a whole slew of things.

Sometimes characters do or say awkward or clumsy things, which, as readers who are teenagers or have been teenagers, we can put aside because explaining these actions don’t really matter to the plot. On the other hand, there are many more parts of the story line that are left unresolved at the end of the novel, such as:

  • Did Park get his comics back?
  • Did Eleanor and Park do the deed?
  • What happened to the rest of Eleanor’s family?
  • How did Richie discover Eleanor’s secret?
  • Why did Richie write those things (and was there any prior incident for it)?
  • What happened to Cal?
  • What happened to DeNice and Beebi?

And the biggest, possibly definitely most heart-wrenching, infuriating yet somehow understandable loose end is the ending.

Yes, the ending. The last four words of the book are probably what are contributing the most to my insomnia right now.

This ending is also what makes me hesitate from giving this book as positive a review as Fangirl. It’s so ambiguous.

In any case, I still recommend the book. Nerds abound (music, comics, and Star Wars fanatics) will love its references. It may not be for everyone but it’s an exciting read. Rowell uses staccato syntax to punctuate each chapter like rapid gun-fire–noticeable and exhilarating. I think regardless of age or background, this novel will make you feel nostalgic (sometimes not necessarily in a good way) of high school and first romance or torn (or, if you’re like me, both!). This book has some pretty intense situations for the characters, addressing themes of sexuality, morality, gender-roles, self-esteem, and family values without being preachy about them. In fact, the majority of the novel is pretty sarcastic and funny or confusing (ah, just like the teenage years). I honestly couldn’t stop turning pages, even with the onslaught of assignments and sleep prodding me to stop.

I feel the urge to warn you of the excessive use of profanity and abusive language. It doesn’t detract the novel’s content but just in case, there you go.

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