The relationship is beautiful; the book raises interesting questions.

Summary:

Welcome to Omaha, Nebraska, 1986. New student Eleanor Douglas, with her bright, curly, red hair and constantly mismatched clothes, can't find a place to fit in. There is no peace from bullies at school nor at home with her abusive father. Park Sheridan, on the other hand, tries his very best to be invisible. Being half Korean and half White, he looks different from all the other kids. He is not "masculine enough" to satisfy his father and would rather read comics than get involved in social activities.

When Park sees Eleanor being bullied on the bus her first day at school, he offers her a seat next to him. That begins a daily routine and the start of a growing friendship. Through bus ride after bus ride and mixtape after mixtape, their relationship only continues to blossom. But it is still 1986, and the world has very specific ideas of social norms. Will Eleanor and Park ever fit in?


Teen Student Volunteer (15):
Eleanor & Park was a very slow, quiet read for me. Because of the minimal action, it is a book to read if you want to relax. I enjoyed the representation of an Asian American as a main character, and I think the relationship between Eleanor & Park was very beautiful.

Nonetheless, the book was very frustrating and confusing to me. Park mentions racism a lot with regard to his being part Korean ilving in a predominantly white neighborhood, but there were only few instances in the book where that actually occurred. The author also stereotypes people of color which I wasn't a fan of.

BTSYA / Teen Reader (19):
I really enjoyed this book and found it very captivating, even though the setting only shifted between three places. Once I began, I couldn’t stop reading it because I was always wondering what would happen next in the world of Eleanor and Park.

Despite the lovable relationship that grows between Eleanor and Park as the novel progresses, there are some problematic elements. I would like to have seen more character development, but especially Park. In Omaha, Nebraska, of the 1980’s, racism was still extremely prominent in society. Park, being half Korean, continually deals with being picked on because of his ethnicity. He internalizes the racism due to the environment he has grown up in. I think the author could have approached this facet differently and made it seem less like all of Park's problems were due to being an Asian American. The book takes said issue very lightly and only examines it on the surface, something that bothered me frequently. This could be a  beautiful love story without demeaning Park’s heritage and family.

I recommend Eleanor and Park to readers 15 and older because it includes more mature events and themes. This is a one-time read because, other than their blooming relationship, there is not much to remember about it.


Content Awareness Factors:

Characters use profanity. Other themes and events are part of the plot, including as physical and emotional abuse, alcohol consumption, bullying, body image, discrimination, and prejudice.


Type of Book:
This is a character-driven story, set in the 1980s. It is about two teens and their personal travails.
Educational Themes:

Our reviewers raise some very specific ideas about how Park views himself and is portrayed. They can generate some great discussion with teens, both in the context of Park but also as a parallel to current times. Has anything changed?

Reading Level:
3.8
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
15 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
15 and Up
Age of child:
Teen Student Volunteer; reviewer age: 15. Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer age: 19
Purchase Recommendation:
Borrow. This is a not a book you're likely to re-read.
book cover

Title Eleanor and Park: A Novel
Author Rainbow Rowell
Publisher Griffin, St. Martin's Press Imprint, Macmillan Publishers © 2013
ISBN 9781250064875
Material Hard Cover
Cost $18.99
Genres Contemporary Fiction, Social Issues, Romance
Reminder: Cover images, amazon.com and indiebound.org links are affiliate links. The Reading Tub can earn income via purchases made via these links. 100% of any income goes directly to our literacy mission.

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