Eleanor is the new girl. She has frizzy red hair, she wears baggy men’s clothes, and lives with her 4 brothers and sisters and her mother and stepfather in a two bedroom house.
Park is half white, half Korean boy who loves comics, music and lives in the shadow of his taller younger brother.
On Eleanor’s first day on the bus, Park reluctantly lets her sit next to him as she is verbally assaulted by the other kids. For weeks they sit next to each other without conversation until they form a strong bond over comics and music.
Eleanor & Park is a love story set in the 80’s. It’s about insecurity, abuse, and in the words of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, “Parents just don’t understand.”
The Good News
- Eleanor’s insecurities are totally relatable if you’re 16 or 36.
- Many of the problems Eleanor & Park face are also relatable and not over the top. Some YA novels are heavy with abuse, bullying, sex, rape, drugs, and suicide. Although there are teens who face these issues everyday, the majority of teen readers do not. As a result, it’s difficult to relate to a character that has been raped/sexually abused or who abuses drugs. Eleanor is bullied but it’s name calling and getting her clothes stolen. Many teens experience this type of bullying. Eleanor’s mother’s husband is abusive but he doesn’t beat her in front of the children. It’s arguing which is more relatable.
I’m not saying that those other novels aren’t beneficial. I’m saying it’s a nice departure.
- There were two black girls who befriend Eleanor when no one else does. My high school was pretty diverse and we often took in the white girls that were treated like crap by the cheerleaders. I liked the inclusion of black girls in this novel. Sometimes I think it’s a stereotype when black characters begin their sentences with girl. But then I remember that sometimes I begin my sentences with girl.
- The sexier scenes weren’t explicit which was once again a nice departure.
The Bad News
- There were too many 80’s tv show references.
- That’s all
It took me a long time to read this book b/c I run away from contemporary but I decided to read it b/c of the buzz. I’m very glad I did. Rowell gradually revealed info. There was just about of romance. The mean girl was the right amount of mean. I think this is a great teen discussion book.
Book Clubs for Tweens/Teens-
Please stop reading if you don’t want to see spoilers!!!
I do this b/c I am a librarian that runs a book discussion group for 5th-7th grade. Parents of younger teens are expecting librarians to pick clean books and it is helpful to know if the book is okay for middle school. Otherwise, I am all for Intellectual Freedom.
- There is a lot of language. F words; P words; and C words
- There is a quick sex scene
- There is a minor amount of sexual abuse
- I would recommend this book to 10th grade and up.