Book Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
When someone says “YA banned book” to me, they may as well be saying “Free Vegan Cookies.” I’m there. Eleanor and Park is the most recent I’ve read. The censors are upset because there’s cussing (mostly by “bad” characters) and a brief (and non-graphic) foray between the two main characters to “second base” (tightly followed by their verbalized mutual decision to not go further). I feel sorry for the censors’ children. And friends. And neighbors. And their children’s friends. And the children of the people who see a headline or skim an article and decide to agree with them. Because this book, like many other banned books, is actually pretty great.
I think I know what really makes the censors mad, and it’s not the cussing by the mean characters or the two (in-love) teenagers making out. The book accepts gender that isn’t always perfectly binary,and encourages readers to think critically about expectations of masculinity in America. Also, Eleanor and Park has frank descriptions of poverty and abuse that Eleanor experiences at home, and it’s kind of hard to read. The book also addresses everyday racism and racial stereotypes– and will probably make the purveyors of those stereotypes kinda uncomfortable.
Check this book out! I found that it started a little slow, but as a chapters went on, I became more and more invested in the two characters. By the end, I was making myself late to work because I just wanted to read one more page (and then another). The writing is quirky and maybe a little romantic, you can tell that the author had a smile on the edge of her lips as she ended so many of the chapters. I wanted the ending to be a little more romantic, but I think that realistic was a little more of what Rowell was going for.
Find a copy at the library!