Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Summary: During the 1986 school year, star-crossed misfits Eleanor and Park know that first love almost never lasts, but they are brave and desperate enough to give love a try. When Eleanor meets Park, readers will remember their first love and just how hard it pulled you under.
After writing about how Eleanor & Park spent over 7 years in hardcover in a world where most books go from hardcover to paperback with their first year of publication, I assumed a novel that spent weeks on the bestsellers list and won all of the awards must be good, right?! Of course, I was in for a reading treat when the hold for the ebook at my local library was around 2 months, right?! When readers are clawing for a book, there must be some substance behind all that hype, right?!
Unfortunately for me and my anticipation, Eleanor & Park was a total let down. As each chapter progressed, I kept waiting for this amazing love story that captured the hearts of all these readers. It never came to me. By the end of the book, I was sitting there like Waka Flocka:
I’m not sure if Eleanor & Park didn’t speak to me because I haven’t been a teenager in decades or because when I was a teenager, I didn’t experience any type of star-crossed love. Although I had crushes, I was always more into books than boys. I was trying to defy stereotypes, and I was the Black chubby girl no one wanted to date.
One of the often-cited offputting aspects of the novel was how the author dealt with Asian stereotypes and fetization. Honestly, I wasn’t offended by that aspect of the story. The story takes place in 1980s Nebraska, so I didn’t expect any of the characters to be “woke.” No one was “woke” in the 1980s, and Asian representation was slim to none. I would expect a group of White Omaha teens to say racist stuff to Park and for Park to internalize said racism. However, I am not Asian. Therefore, I am not an authoritative voice on the matter. I prefer to defer to ownvoices readers. While some saw many problems with the Asian representation in Eleanor & Park, others had no concerns with how Park and his mom were presented in the story.
I didn’t hate Eleanor & Park. I actually liked the contemporary take on the classic Romeo and Juliet story, especially since these star-crossed lovers live in the end. However, I just did not get all the hype surrounding this book. I would still recommend reading in preparation for the upcoming adaptation, but readers should go into the book with lowered expectations. Rating: Laborious Literature