I know I’m late to the party (usually am – I hope you read that in an Eeyore voice), but I just finished Eleanor and Park and LOVED it. I cannot say enough, just how much I fell head over heals for the characters and the story. It was thought provoking, emotionally charged, sweet, with well written characters (I have such a pet peeve about flat characters!) Needless to say, it was the whole enchilada.
Spoilers lie ahead … fair warning
As an adult YA reader I often wonder what teenage Erica would think about the situations that come up in some of the heavier novels. In Eleanor and Park, for instance, would teen me see the writing on the wall, the inevitability of the situation? Would I understand that Eleanor would have to leave, have to find a better situation, have to eventually heal all the wounds created by the turmoil in her childhood and adolescence? Or would I instead be angered that Park couldn’t fix it and make it right, that they couldn’t ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after?
It’s hard to say, but I would be willing to wager that I wouldn’t be able to reconcile the presence, or even the sense of reality in their story. As an adult I see things differently, and I understand the complexity. Life, love, relationships, responsibility, these are things that in the best of situations can be difficult. The business of living is made up of fluid stuff – it’s messy – not so easy to pin down, never failing to change and evolve. That said, I think that Rowell did an excellent job of ending the story; it felt true, and real, and fair to the characters. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t even pretty, it was what it needed to be.
I suppose because part of me wants the pretty tied up bow of a conclusion, I searched for what the three words were that Eleanor sent to Park, curious what other people were musing, or if Rowell herself might have spoken about it. When reading, in my mind, those words were, “I love you.” and a lot of other readers had similar thoughts, however there were one or two people who planted a sour seed that bugged me.
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me, the possibility of those words (the words Eleanor sent to Park after so long) being negative, but that doesn’t really matter; on whole, people can experience the book and the ending as they wish. I’m not the positivity police, if someone sees it differently than me, with a negative slant, so be it. More power to them. What does bother me, reasonable or not, is the part where they suggest it could be “Just stop, Park.” – NOT because it’s negative, but because PARK HAD STOPPED!!! That was part of the resolution. Park had stopped sending things!!
He kept writing her letters months after he stopped sending them. on New Years Day he wrote that he hoped she’d get everything she ever wished for. Then tossed the letter into a box under his bed.
It was bad when the letters came every day. It was worse when they stopped.
Truth is, when a detail like that is left open ended, it is up to the reader to decide. However, this detail is given by our author – it could have been negative, it probably wasn’t “Just stop, Park.” Period. The end. Read the book.
To the reader who is of two minds, regarding those three words and what they might be, I just want to offer up that it is fully up to them. They choose – You choose, you get to decide if you’re a pessimist, an optimist, or something in between.