In these chapters we see the aftermath of the gymsuit sighting, and it’s not at all what Eleanor expected. As Anna discussed so beautifully, Eleanor can’t imagine anyone being attracted to her, let alone someone as dreamy as Park. Of course she mistook Park’s dumbstruck reaction as repulsion, but we learn that it was anything but that. Afterwards, he’s totally preoccupied by all of her “negative space” (LOVE that description) and “that long white zipper” (245), so he can hardly keep his hands off her when they finally reunite in private. Eleanor keeps trying to be embarrassed of her body when she’s pressed against him, but she’s enjoying herself too much to care.
We learn that Park has self-image problems of his own. Even though it seems like plenty of girls are attracted to him (Tina, the record store clerk, our girl Eleanor), he has doubts about his appeal and those doubts are tied up with his race. He complains, “everything that makes Asian girls seem exotic makes Asian guys seem like girls” (272) and I’m sure his dad’s He-Man attitude isn’t helping. Like Eleanor, he sees the thing he’s most insecure about as his main identifier; he’s so sure that all anyone sees when they look at him is his Korean-ness. Eleanor assures him that the first thing she sees is his cuteness, and if she does see his Korean-ness (you guys, I know it’s not a word, but I’m sticking with it), she definitely doesn’t see it as a bad thing.
Anna said, “the closer that she and Park are, the harder it is to separate her feelings for Park from her feelings about herself.” Now her feelings about herself are being influenced for the better by Park’s love for her, and the same goes for him. It’s so much easier to face the world and relax in your identity when you feel totally adored by someone. These chapters are so sweet because we’re seeing the first signs of that phase of love. Again, it’s like we somehow planned that I get all the swoony, adorable chapters. I just glanced ahead at Chapter 46 and I’m really not ready to leave the happy place yet. Have fun with that, Emily!
- Oddly, I’ve had that same conversation about being sweet (p. 259). The verdict was that I’m not sweet.
- For Park, part of the appeal of going to prom with Eleanor is that he can “help his mom do her hair” (270). I’m sure that would make Eleanor so uncomfortable, but it made me smile.
- I love Eleanor’s goofy, happy thoughts about Park, like how watching him change lanes really gets her going. Even though she can’t help but be her snarky, un-sweet self on the outside, we know she’s over the moon and it’s so lovely to read.
This week I’ve been rereading one of my all-time favorites, Judy Blume’s Summer Sisters. I probably subconsciously reached for it because we’re getting pummeled with snow here in New England and it just feels right to read a book with deck chairs on the cover. This book, which I should mention is NOT a YA book, follows Vix and Caitlin from sixth grade (but seriously, NOT YA) to their twenties. Vix Leonard considers herself to be an ordinary kid until bohemian, wealthy Caitlin Somers invites her to spend the summer on Martha’s Vineyard with her family. Caitlin is the kind of wild, charismatic person who can make you feel special just by acknowledging your existence, but eventually the magic wears thin and Vix has to come to terms with how their complicated relationship has shaped her, for better or worse. Summer Sisters is really about the friendship, but the reason I’m pairing it with these E&P chapters (besides the fact that I’m too immersed in it to think of another recommendation) is that it perfectly captures the giddy obsession of first love and the nervous excitement of early sexual experiences. This is a sexy, soapy saga and I will reread it at least once a year until the day I die. Just try it—when has Judy ever let you down?