Banned Books Week: “Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Rowell Review


Eleanor _ Park by Vernon Barford School Library

The Young Adult fiction novel, “Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Rowell landed itself on the list of top 10 most challenging books in 2016 for its offensive language.

A couple of parents in the Anoka-Hennepin School District read the book and after finding offensive language and sexual themes in it, they challenged the book, which ultimately remained on the reading list for the “Rock the Book” voluntary summer reading program.

According to the Star Tribune, one parent found “227 curse words or use of the Lord’s name in vain, underage drinking, drug use, hints of sexual abuse and budding teenage sexuality,” in the text.

One could argue that the book not only has offensive language, but the entire character, Richie, Eleanor’s step-father, is offensive.

While Richie, and themes of sexual, emotional and physical abuse, may make the book inappropriate for a young adult audience and worthy of a trigger warning, more mature readers may appreciate that Richie makes them want to keep turning the page, if only to find out how he finally meets his end.

The story is set in Omaha, Nebraska in the mid-1980s, Eleanor Douglas just transferred to Park’s school at the beginning of sophomore year. She is the oldest of five siblings, who all share one-bedroom without a door or even a curtain for privacy, in the two-bedroom apartment that they live in with their mother and step-father.

Park Sheridan, who is South Korean on his mother’s side and white on his father’s side, has lived in Omaha his whole life.

Eleanor meets Park on the first day of school when no one will let her sit next to them on the bus until the bus driver yells at all of them and Park rudely agrees to let her sit next to him. They begin to connect over 80s music and comic books. Richie will not let Eleanor have a boyfriend, so they have to spend most of their time, apart from the bus, in secret.

Eleanor continues to get bullied at home and at school. She rejects Park’s gifts because she does not think she is worthy. Eventually, Eleanor’s home situation gets so bad she has to go live with her aunt and uncle.

Though the ending is bittersweet and, like the rest of the book, does not follow the story arc of a typical love story, I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves a good page turner or anyone who wants to read about a villain that they will love to hate.

I would not suggest reading this book in some place like the library where other people have an expectation of quiet because I wanted to scream at Richie often.