Academic journal article English Journal

Eleanor & Park

Academic journal article English Journal

Eleanor & Park

Article excerpt

Eleanor & Park Rainbow Rowell. New York: St. Martin's, 2013. 325 pages. $18.99. Grades 10 and up. ISBN 978-1-250-01257-9 (hardcover), ISBN 978-1-250-03121-1 (ebook). YALSA Top Ten, Printz Honor Book, and "Best Book" lists in SLJ, NYT, and PubWkl.

Of the eight books chosen for this year's Honor List, Eleanor & Park was the first one to make it to the New York Times "Best Seller" list, and as far as we know, it was also the first one to be involved in a major censorship case. Parents of a reader at Anoka High School in Minnesota led a citizens' group in challenging the book's place in school libraries after counting 227 instances of coarse language or sexuality. An invitation to author Rainbow Rowell to speak at the school was rescinded, but after the school principal convened a committee of parents, staff, and a student to review the book, Eleanor & Park was returned to the library because the committee judged it to be "powerful, realistic, and appropriate for high schoolers."

The book is a love story between two outsiders. Park is half-Korean because when his father was a soldier in Korea, he fell in love with Min-Dae and brought her back to live in his hometown. While Park may be a little "different" from the other kids in his high school, he isn't nearly the outsider that Eleanor is. One reason is that his parents truly love each other, and as a young man, Park's father had been a local "hero" and so the family is treated with respect in their small Nebraska neighborhood.

Eleanor's birth father abandoned his family of five, and Eleanor's beautiful mother ends up marrying Richie and lives in the inadequate family home in which Richie had grown up. Because of his meanness and the vulgar and creepy way he lusts after Eleanor, I put Richie in my "top-ten list" of horrible fathers in YA books.

Being a basically non-romantic person, I've always been a little irritated at authors who, when they write about a girl with terrible problems, invent a boyfriend for her, and the boyfriend immediately makes all the troubles disappear. It is true that in this book Park literally saves Eleanor's life, but that's not the end of the story because there's still plenty of work for Eleanor to do. …

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