Book Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Fall in love.
Damn the world.
Let go of your inhibitions.

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This book! This bright big blob of a book!
Remember that first time you saw a boy not as a dirty, irritating piece of shit this mass of your favourite ice cream which you had to, just had to take a piece of ? The time when holding hands made you swoon and the mushy talks made you melt ? The first time you fell in “love” ? This book gives you that- brings back all the sweet, innocent and cheesy memories of that first time a boy made your heart jump and flip and go crazy in the tiny space of your chest !

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.

The protagonists were so relatable. Reading about their insecurities, inhibitions and doubts was like reading a journal your fifteen year old self wrote. Despite being the victim of countless bullies at school and the daughter of some real shitty parents, never once did Eleanor made you think of a helpless girl looking out for prince charming to come to her rescue. She was smart, self- assured, brave, can stand her ground and the girl knows her comics well ! On the other hand, you have Park. He is such a typical teenager that his actions never really disappoint you. Because you relate to his inhibitions about helping the weird girl who is always bullied. These are teenagers to whom , as ridiculous as it may be, social status matters. Because it is after all high school which as we all know is no heaven.

Their story develops quite subtly amidst comics and books. The hand holding, kissing, making out- all of it is just so aptly done.

It also deals with child abuse, violence, neglect. Her dad is a -and I don’t have a politer word for it- a douchebag. And her mother? One of the worst mothers I’ve read so far. So obviously with such a setup there HAD to be a lot of angst and drama. The sneaking out of the house, the tiptoeing across halls, avoiding any place that’s not your room…it made you root for their love all the more. For the only upside of living with her mother and stepfather was being able to be close to Park.

The ending disappointed me though. It could have taken a better route. It felt unnecessarily poignant- Eleanor ignoring Park for an year.

Nevertheless, given the beautiful journey that was this story, I am willing to let go of the disappointing ending. And you Miss Rowell have got yourself another fan who is going to stalk every existing online profile for updates on your works. Word.

3-1/2 STARS

Book Review: You Against Me by Jenny Downham

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I had this book sitting on my self for quite some time. And every time I saw it’s cover, I imagined it to be the trite love story which uses rape as a mere tool for the lead pair to come closer. Yes, I ignored the very enticing summary on the back page because in the recent months I have become cynical towards books which claim to be “different” but are rife with terribly over-used cliches. So naturally I kept You Against Me at a healthy distance away from myself, saving it for a time when my head would be depressed enough to not snarl in frustration at it. Well, as luck would have it, it turns out I wasn’t doing any favors to myself by keeping away from it. It wasn’t even remotely what I would call a “healthy” distance.

You Against Me by Jenny Downham is essentially the story of Ellie and Mikey wherein the former’s brother rapes the latter’s sister. How they fall in love and deal with the aforementioned issue forms the crux of the story.

The customary approach to address the issue of sexual assault has been to bring forth the incident through the eyes of the victim. That gives more intensity and power to the situation. But You Against Me takes a different line. The narration is through the point of view of the families of the victim and the perpetrator. How it is for the people at the fringes of the situation. Their blind faith and the instinct to protect their own. While Mikey wants to exact revenge on the boy who molested his sister, Ellie remains loyal to her brother and believes his version of the events without question.

The route taken by the author is chancy. But she handles it with perfection. Her characters are not exactly likeable and therein lies her excellence. Their shortcomings are believable, be it Mikey’s philandering ways or ELlie’s refusal to even consider listening to Karyn’s side of the story or her slut shaming tendencies. Downham’s prowess is such that there are times when you find yourself feeling a wee sorry for the accused.

The love story of the two main characters made for the weaker point of the book. Not in concept but in depiction. The reasons for their intense attraction are vague. The events that lead up to them falling for each other are unsatisfactory.

The mystery as regards the real events of the fateful night is gripping. An excellent depiction of the anger, confusion, anguish it is a must read for everyone. Because it is not just some star-crossed love story but a realistic and spot on depiction of rape and slut shaming.

4 Stars

Book Review : Everyday by David Levithan

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So you are one of those people who practice people watching, you know, the activity ( inactivity actually) wherein you sit/stand/stand-on-a-leg/ whatever-position-you feel-most-comfortable- in and observe ( stare at, actually) people. The preferred positions are mostly parks, cafes, metro trains/stations or even a public toilet if you take your ‘analysis’ really seriously ( or you are a real creep !). The intention could be anything ranging from passing your time to imagining their lives or what goes on in their heads. Okay, before you jump to any conclusions let me make it clear that it isn’t a psychological analysis of why people do this. Nor is it about my dreams to read people’s mind. This is totally what the header claims it to be- a book review of everyday aka my thought about it. And weirdly enough while reading the first few pages, people watching is what danced in my mind. For the protagonist is a soul-hopper ho has no physical body of his own. He’s just a soul/spirit who wakes up in a different body everyday, living their lives for the day and departs. But no, this book isn’t about people watching at all. Just a crazy thought i had while reading the novel (and i took the idea of explaining your thoughts while writing reviews quite seriously).

So on to the real thing then. Everyday is about A, a soul/spirit who visits/possesses a new body everyday having no body of his own. It during one of these visits that he comes across a girl, Rhi, and instantly falls for her. How he struggles to be in a relationship with her while hopping in different bodies makes up the story.

The concept is brilliant. The synopsis in itself is a sure shot way to make you pick up the book for it’s intriguing, rare and never done before. It’s an another gem to the ya genre. Besides being a romance novel, David Levithan raises interesting and deep questions about what actually defines you. And herein lies the biggest weakness of the novel. The primary focus of the novel is fixed upon the romance part of the story while it completely wastes the immense scope which the theme of the novel provides. There were no answers, conclusions or solutions to the questions raised. Maybe, given the audience that the novel caters to, the author didn’t want to delve in too deep into the philosophical part of the story.

All through the story i felt that the author was trying to shove his ideologies down our throats. He was preachy and there wasn’t any subtlety there with regard to that.

The subplot involved a boy named Nathan, who after having been possessed by A starts to suspect that he was possessed by the devil. Going public with his suspicions he is instantly backed up a slew of christians. This stereotypical and honestly over exaggerated image of the the Evangelicals was one of the weaker points of the book. Their actions lacks a definition and therefore makes their portrayal appear ignorant. Besides, I was expecting Nathan’s subplot to answer the questions raised by the author. I surmised Nathan to assist A understand his ‘condition’ better and maybe find a solution for his troubles.

In totality, Everyday makes for a very sweet, heartwarming and pretty engaging despite its flaws. And David Levithan’s writing is beautiful, lyrical and very beautiful.

                                                                               4 STARS