Eleanor & Park- Book Review

eleanor-and-park1Not liking Eleanor & Park feels a little bit like kicking a puppy. And yet…

Okay, I need to just stop reading YA. That’s a big part of my problem. There is nothing in the genre for me. It’s too cheesy, too angsty, too dumbed down. No offense to anyone writing the stuff. I’m just not a teenager, and I’m not intimidated by books with polysyllabic content, and I don’t feel like reading anything that sounds like an extended IM Facebook exchange.


Also, this particular book falls in that irksome sub-genre of YA–the introvert-adoring, underdog lauding sub-genre–where the only really cool kids are the misunderstood dorks, the outcasts, the nerds. They are the only smart ones. Their inner beauty trumps all. They are secretly more interesting and tough and awesome and brilliant and gorgeous than anyone else. They also, with baffling frequency, seem to have secret ninja powers. In this book almost literally. See also, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Fault in Our Stars, The Twilight series, and countless others.

I know this will come as a shock to some, but just because you played sports or were popular in high school DOES NOT mean you were automatically shallow or stupid or mean or entitled. The irony, of course, is that the picked on feel like they were marginalized, and didn’t enjoy that, so now they are taking the power back with all these books trying to generalize and marginalize after the fact. The truth is, it’s not that simple. People are unique. We don’t fall so easily into cliques and sub-groups. I played sports, but I didn’t date cheerleaders, stuff freshman into lockers, mock the “fat kid,” or get wasted every weekend. I played sports, but I took photography, wrote poetry, went to plays put on by the theater department, had deep conversations, was friends with everyone.

Likewise, reading comic books and liking Star Wars DOES NOT automatically mean you were secretly cooler than everyone else. I won’t make the same mistake of overgeneralizing, but the suggestion that these activities somehow render you MORE cool than people with other interests is simply false.

The chemistry in this book also rang false to me. Not because I’m superficial. Not because I don’t remember being a teenager. I can very much relate to the “[t]hey were always together, and it still wasn’t enough” sentiment in the book, in general. See p. 209. I just was not feeling it between these two in particular. That could just be a personal problem.

Several people recommended this book to me, almost as if, because I like to read and I like romance, I would have to love this book. I didn’t. My response was visceral. It made me uncomfortable and I did not enjoy it. But that is just me. If you can relate and it makes you happy, then that is perfectly fine. Read on.

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