Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Two misfits.One extraordinary love.Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try
This a mostly a ranting mini review even though I didn't intend on it to be a ranting review. If I offend you with this review because you loved this book so much, I'm sorry because not everyone can love every book.
When I initially got this book, I began reading it and within a few days, put it aside because I hated it so much. Then I decided that I was being unfair with it and I wanted to try it again. I did try it again but my opinion didn't change. I'm not going to try re-reading this book and I don't know if I want to read another Rainbow Rowell book. I found this book to be boring and Eleanor to be annoying and this book was so racist. While some people have argued that it made sense during the time it was set, it didn't make sense to me. For example, Park faces NO racism that I could recall and that just makes me...angry. How is it that in the '80s a half Korean kid doesn't face racism but I know of so many of my friends who face racism every single day in the 21st century? Heck, I still face a ton of racism and I hate when people brush over it as if it were nothing.
I'm not saying it bad for people to not have noticed the racism in this book. Reading is, after all, a very subjective matter BUT if people can call our sexism or misogyny, why not call our racism? Which, by the way, is vastly present in this book. Had this issue been handled better, I would have loved that aspect. Racism needs to be talked about and it needs to be addressed but I don't think this book was done well. Was racism rampant during that time? Yes, yes it was. For more historical context, read Laura's review which has a wealth of other historical inaccuracies during the time in which this book was set. And for the people who say that it's okay for Eleanor to always make a comment about Park's eyes or skin color as a way of affection, I have to ask: WHAT? Since when is it okay for a character to always talk about another character's eyes or skin color because it makes him so Asian? Honestly, when I (and I know this to be true for others as well) find someone interesting or attractive, I don't harbor on their skin color or eye shape. But maybe that's just me...
And another part that Laura brings up which also makes me mad: Park spends much of this book hating his Korean side. He's ashamed of his mother and wishes he doesn't look so Korean. I get that. I do. I've hated being Indian on many occasions. I wish my dad, a university professor, didn't have an accent but he does. But this is a big part of my struggle with balancing two different cultures and trying to fit in. Instead of showing how Park struggles with two different cultures, he simply hates one side of himself and put the other side on a high pedestal. I think that this could have been such a great aspect of this book had it been explored. Truth be told, even though I am not of mixed race, I have always had a difficult time dealing with both my Indian and American identity. I had hoped that this would be something I shared with Park. I wanted to see a character in a book struggle with this issue because I know so many of my friends, even if they're not of Asian decent, struggle with two cultures.
In the end, I didn't finish this book even though I got very, very close to finishing. I liked the writing but after hating the characters and fining it racist and inaccurate to the '80s (which, by the way, the author NEVER lets you forget. It was so annoying after a while because YES I get that it's set in the '80s. MOVE. ON). I know Rainbow Rowell has worked for many people but so far, not for me.
LOOK AT THAT BEAUTIFUL COVER. I AM IN LOVE. If only the book had been close to as beautiful as this cover. It's so simple yet it stands out and I love an illustrated cover!
**I borrowed this book from the library. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for my review.**