I'm not quite sure how to go about explaining the plot of E & P. It's the sort of book that seems so beautiful and fragile--like a baby bird in your hand--that you're almost worried about recommending it to friends. What if they hurt it? But I trust you, dear readers, and I have to tell you all I can about such a remarkable book. This book, set in 1986, is written as a dual narrative. It switches between the perspective of Eleanor, a guarded, strange looking and acting high schooler with a seriously dysfunctional family situation, and Park, a quiet rock enthusiast and with the quintessential perfect family. Although they differ in some serious ways, Eleanor and Park are similar, too--they both know what it's like to look different and feel different. In many ways, they both feel like misfits. But somehow they manage to find each other. And, in a way (I know it sounds off-the-charts cliched, but it's not) they save each other.
Rainbow Rowell has a writing style that just won't quit. Again, (see my post about her newer book, Fangirl) she seems to sidestep cliches in a way that's pretty impressive. E & P is one part cynical--as in a conscious yes-this-is-a-romance admit that keeps the book grounded--and one part big, bold, beautiful lines that seem to perfectly capture everything I hope love is. Every snapshot sentence is a work of art--at once frank, precarious, funny, image-laden, loving and achingly truthful.
Also, I couldn't put E & P down. I think I finished it (and it's a pretty sizable book) in a day and a half. And it's not a thriller--anything but--I just needed to know how it turned out. And, the ending. Oh god, the ending. Normally I read books twice--first for plot, then for the more nuanced elements, but I couldn't read this book again. After finishing it I almost felt broken, but, at the same time, I felt healed, calm, and content--I felt put back together. Read, please read. I promise you will come out of the story a little sad, a little scared, and probably teary--but mostly, you'll feel refreshed and released.
"It's because you're kind," she said. "And because you get all my jokes..."
"Okay." He laughed.
"And you look like a protagonist." She was talking as fast as she could think. "You look like the person who wins in the end. You're so pretty, and so good. You have magic eyes," she whispered. "And you make me feel like a cannibal."
"I have to go." She leaned over so the receiver was close to the base.
"Eleanor - wait," Park said. She could hear her dad in the kitchen and her heartbeat everywhere.
"Eleanor - wait - I love you.”