Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

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Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, 2013, ISBN: 9781250012579

Plot Summary: Eleanor has fiery red hair, weird clothes, and is a little on the chubby side. She’s new in town and immediately attracts the bullies’ attention, with pranks happening in the locker room and nasty notes being written on her notebook. Park wants nothing to do with her; she’ll only bring more attention to him. Yet he finds himself drawn to her. It starts with sharing comic books, and then music, and progresses to be something much deeper. Eleanor has a step dad she hates and no privacy at home. Park struggles with standing out as Korean, and pleasing his strict Army dad. From the beginning, neither of them thinks a relationship will work, but they have to at least try. And the bullying is getting worse. What she thought was standard hazing could be much more serious.

Critical Evaluation: I enjoyed reading this book quite a bit. I think characters are the dominant focus of this story. Both Eleanor and Park are realistic and well thought out. Each explore gender roles through this story; Eleanor, by defending herself and in her manner of dress and Park with his experimentation with makeup. The story is told in first person, but narrative switches back and forth from Eleanor to Park so that we see how each interprets their interactions and the story that unfolds. Even supporting characters are given multidimensionality; in particular, Eleanor’s bullies at school are given a chance to explain themselves and end up helping Eleanor in the end.

I also think the place that the story takes place is well developed. Both walk around the streets of the town and reference everything’s relative place in the town, like where Eleanor and Park’s houses are in relation to each other. I imagined a run of the mill, all American suburb that verged on stereotypical occasionally with the cliques, obsession with sports and desire of most to fit in. It ends in a more realistic way than most; there is no Romeo and Juliet ending, but nor are the protagonists walking off into the sunset together. However, the ending felt a little abrupt to me. I was hoping for more closure, especially since there appears to be no follow up. However, perhaps that is also a more realistic ending that represents the way relationships develop and do sometimes end.

Reader’s Annotation: Eleanor and Park are different, but deep down, they both know what it’s like to not belong. Will that be enough to keep them together?

Information about the author: Rainbow Rowell is from Omaha, Nebraska. She is 40 years old and lives with her husband and two sons. Her name doesn’t have any special meaning, according to Rowell, her mother “was a hippie. My siblings are Forest, Jade, and Haven.”

This is her second book, her first being Attachments which was an adult novel. She is writes the pop-culture and lifestyles column for the Omaha World-Herald.  According to BookBrowse.com, “Rainbow earned a journalism degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1995 and at, 24, became the youngest-ever – and first female – columnist at the Omaha World-Herald.”

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Romance

Curriculum ties, if any: None.

Booktalking Ideas: I might like to incorporate some of the music or comics that are discussed. I think this book would lend itself pretty well to a book trailer. I would also want to highlight reasons that boys and girls will like this book, for the quirky humor, and difficult situations that both can relate to.

Reading Level/Interest Age:  The main characters are sixteen. Because of the language and sexual content, I think this will appeal more to teens in the 15-17 age range. School Library Journal suggests this book for grades 9 and up, while Publishers Weekly suggests it for ages 13 and up.

Challenge Issues:

  • Language
  •  Subtly described sex scene
  • Abusive stepfather and his incestuous tendencies

Defensive strategies:

  1. First, I would want to be familiar with book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
  2. Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
    • Bibliographic Citation of the book.
    • A description of who the book is best suited for.
    • A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
    • My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
    • Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
    • ALA Library Bill of Rights
    • Good and bad reviews of the book
    • Alternative works a student could read
    • Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
  3. When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
  4. If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.

Specifically for this book, I would say that Eleanor’s situation is one that should be discussed, because this is something that other teens have experienced.

Why did you include this book?: I don’t read many romantic books, so this was an easier way to test out that genre. This book blurs some lines with sexuality in showing Eleanor as the more dominant and Park experimenting with eyeliner and his appearance. I think this book could be read by boys or girls, and presents an interesting portrait of familial problems that teens can relate to.

Reference Page:

Book Browse (2013, February 26). Rainbow Rowell biography. Retrieved from http://www.bookbrowse.com/biographies/index.cfm/author_number/2273/rainbow-rowell

Wilson, Craig (2011, April 20). Rainbow Rowell loves local color. USA Today. Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/book/news/2011-04-21-   buzzplus21_ST_N.htm

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  1. Pingback: Alphabetical List of Titles | let's talk about that book...

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