I can’t find the words…
I knew this book was going to break my heart, but at the same time I wanted it to happen. Rainbow Rowell did such a phenomenal job of portraying what your first love feels like. I loved the way she somehow managed to capture those first love feelings.
“But Park’s face was like art. And not weird art, ugly art either. Park had the sort of face you painted because you didn’t want history to forget it”(132).
“Eleanor was right: She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something”(165).
I love the way that the Rowell portrayed Eleanor. In every young adult novel I read when I was in middle school the main protagonist was always beautiful in an obvious way. They were given a small flaw then you were immediately reassured with the fact that they had clear skin, long dark auburn hair, and long beautiful eye lashes. But Eleanor was refreshingly and imperfectly different. She had unruly big red hair, she wore clothes that were too big for her, and most days she resembled a hobo. She thought very little of herself, but Park gave us a whole new perspective and we go to REALLY see Eleanor for who she was through his eyes. Many Eleanor and Park fans were worried about just “how big” Eleanor was and Rowell challenged them with the question: Does it matter?
Throughout this book Rowell quite subtly and beautifully challenged gender roles. She didn’t fight or make an argument, she simply wrote out her characters and who they were. Park wore eyeliner because he wanted to. And the moment Eleanor saw him she laughed and told him he looked fierce. It was HIM. Eleanor also pointed out how sexist the authors/illustrators were when making comic books.
Park and Eleanor’s families were extremely different. Eleanor had a beautiful mother who stayed with an abusive man, while Park’s dad would come home everyday from work and make out with his mom right there in front of everyone. But despite Park’s parents’ loving marriage his family knew what loss felt like.
Ultimately Rowell successfully put the feelings of our first love into words. She wrote about the first time you fall completely and irrationally in love with someone. She wrote about the hope that comes with our first young love. She wrote about all the possibilities that we believe are within our reach when we first feel what it’s like to hold hands with that one person who we stay up late thinking about. And she wrote about the painful and heartbreaking reality that comes at the end of young love.