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Comments for Eleanor & Park
Eleanor & Park: 06/08/14
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell at first glance is a parellel point of view, young adult romance. That's the format and the set up. But Rowell uses the genre and its tropes to dig deeper into bullying, domestic abuse, inter-ethnic marriages, and poverty. Reading it will take you through all the emotions.
Eleanor is the new kid at school. He's immediately dubbed "Big Red" because of her size and her untamed red hair. She is living through the sort of hell being highlighted by the #yesallwomen discussion on Twitter.
Park who has also been bullied for being half Korean, is the only kid on the bus to not verbally abuse her. He also offers her a seat. And on the bus from hell, Park makes a safe place for Eleanor to be. From that their friendship slowly grows.
The setting for Eleanor & Park is Omaha, Nebraska in 1986. This means the plot can't rely on modern conventions of cellphones and computers and texting. Heck, things are bad enough that Eleanor doesn't even have access to a phone (or a toothbrush, or even batteries) except at her father's home because her stepfather is a drunk and what little money the family has, goes to his habit.
Omaha in the 1980s is a white bread, homogenous, unhappy and unsafe place for anyone who doesn't fit in. Eleanor because of the abuse at home and her poverty, doesn't fit in. She is assaulted from all sides because her home life and school life is unhealthy and hostile. Park fares better because he has a loving home and a white father who is respected in the community.
Though there is romance and sexual tension in Eleanor & Park, don't expect the happily ever after of a romance. There is a bittersweet happy ending but it's not a clichˇd one. But it's an ending that will make you think and feel and reexamine your preconceptions.