Ann, one of my interns from Charles Wright Academy, Tacoma, USA, has kindly shared this book review with us.
I really appreciated this novel for its sincerity and bravery to depict the hard truths of family situations. Eleanor lives with four younger siblings in a tiny house with her mother and her abusive stepfather, Richie. In her narrative she talks about how she has gotten used to all the yelling and her mother's screams that she can sleep somewhat well. The children are often neglected or ill-treated by Richie, and Eleanor often has to take more responsibility when her mother is powerless.
Rowell's novel is provoking in how we as students are oblivious to each other's personal lives. At school where everyone's trying to fit in, it's so easy to judge and criticize others for their looks or behaviour. However, many kids like Eleanor have a rough life at home, outside of their classes. Park takes an interest in Eleanor once she finally opens up, not only about her family life, but her passions and ideas. But their relationship is not easy; Eleanor struggles to keep Park sheltered from Richie, and Park often takes things for granted with Eleanor, like spare batteries or access to a telephone.
Overall, I would recommend this book to someone who's searching for a more unconventional love story. Eleanor's and Park's story is far from perfect, and they find many obstacles that test their relationship. There has been some controversy in schools for this book, for its occasional vulgarity, violence, and the talk of teen sexuality. However, I think this novel was successful in its realness, its honesty in teenage life and culture spanning across different walks of life. I highly recommend this book as an unconventional yet thought provoking read.
Thank you Ann!