This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on June 26, 2014
Genres: Young Adult
Buy on Amazon
I’ve created a new tradition: read a banned book in September. It’s a long-standing tradition that started this month. It’s also highly strategic. Eleanor & Park was on my bookshelf waiting to be read. See, strategic and historical. Well, it may be, eventually…
I had to look up why Eleanor & Park was banned. The story is a cute first love between two social outsiders. Eleanor is new to the school. Park grew up in the area. He’s a bit nerdy and has a Korean mom. It’s set in the ‘80s in America, so it was still early immigration days, and white America was still a thing. Eleanor and Park meet on the school bus. Everyone has their unwritten set seats, and newcomers aren’t welcome. Park begrudgingly shifts to let Eleanor into the spare seat, and they gradually, silently bond over Park’s morning comic reading.
I can see reasons why people may have objections to Eleanor & Park, not the level of banning it, but I can see why people could be concerned. It is teen love, they do get naked—even though that’s more inferred than told—, kids smoke weed, kids are bullies and behave terribly, and Eleanor lives in an abusive household. Weirdly, the main reason people challenge the book (according to the ALA), is for swearing. Swearing! As that’s the main reason why it’s challenged and I barely noticed the cursing, don’t let that stop you from reading this. I was expecting it to be banned for the same reason many other books are: forcing current values on books set in previous times. We know better than to judge on race or to accept abuse. The story was only set in the ‘80s but, thankfully, we have changed.
The story is brutally real for an abusive household. The starvation, the loss of privacy, the silent crying in fear. If that offends you, good. That is the reality for many people, including many children. Eleanor isn’t the typical teen YA, in love protagonist. She knows her time with Park will end. She doesn’t know if it’s her step-father who’ll stop it, but she knows she’s not allowed to have nice things. I love that the story also covers Park’s point of view, and he’s so soppy cute. He’s the one who wants it to last forever and naively believes nothing can get in their way.
The weakest part of the story is the possible incest. I can’t say too much without giving away a finale plot point, and it’s not graphic, but it is unrealistic. The abuse was in threats, but it would have been difficult for the written threats to have been written without the writer being discovered. That said, the rest of the book is horrific, and heartbreaking, but also inspiring. I cried, but I don’t regret reading it.
We all know my thoughts on banned books: read them! They are banned because someone perceives hurt from them. Often the hurt is just a reaction from increasing their knowledge of people not like them. I don’t want anyone to endure the abuse Eleanor and her family experienced, or the racism and bullying either, but it exists, and reading books like Eleanor & Park help us understand and assist those who are suffering.
Do you want to read more book reviews like this? Subscribe with email and have them delivered to you.
Proofread with Grammarly (affiliate ad)