Author: Rainbow Rowell
Rating: 1 / 5 stars
Fangirl was the first fiction audiobook I borrowed from the library. It took a lot of commuting to finish it, and in the end I wasn’t that impressed. But like I’d heard good things about Fangirl, I’d heard even more positive feedback for Eleanor & Park. So when it showed up on my search of available audiobooks at the library available for download, I decided to give it a try.
Unlike Fangirl, I couldn’t even finish Eleanor & Park. I don’t think I even got a fourth of the way through. I made it a little over an hour of the way through and then Eleanor and Park, though probably mostly Eleanor, bugged me so much I deleted it off my phone and called it a day.
Eleanor is the new kid at school. Her mother is abused by the step father that Eleanor resents her younger siblings calling Dad. She no longer has a bedroom of her own, and the one bathroom in the house is behind a curtain (when it’s even up) in the kitchen. I feel for Eleanor, I really do. Especially when we learn that she was kicked out of her house for a while and almost got sent to Child Services. The fact that as the redheaded new girl she’s also getting teased adds to the pity part (the RAGHEAD scene is a prime example).
The problem with Eleanor is that I feel like she’s a racist. For one, and probably my biggest pet peeve of this entire novel, she keep referring to Park as “that Asian guy”. It got to one point where I thought on my drive into work as I listened that if she called him “the stupid Asian guy” one more time, I was going to chuck my bluetooth speaker out of my car on the interstate. The real kicker was when she went something along the lines of ‘If I wasn’t sure I like that f-ing Asian guy, I know now.’ WHAT?! I realize that Rowell was probably trying to juxapose the “star-crossed lovers” of Eleanor and Park against the “love at first sight” of Romeo & Juliet, but seriously? Especially when she admits that she isn’t even sure he’s Asian (and it’s revealed that she really needs to pay better attention in her geography class).
In fact, it seems like a lot of the elements in this story are attached to the race of the characters. The narrators refer more than once to the “black girls” at the school, though Eleanor also says that she’d never seen a black person before and that her girl is overwhelming white. Park and his friend refer to something along the lines of ‘the blacks like the jungle fever’ while chatting one day. And Park (who is “stereotypically Asian with his obsession with comic books and martial arts) comments on his mom’s accent (the narrators even try to add it into the audiobook). My best friend in high school (who I sat with on the bus everyday until we were old enough to carpool together) is first generation American with parents who immigrated from Thailand. He’s never once said anything about his mother’s or father’s accent, let alone made fun of it. That did nothing to endure me to Park either.
Both characters seemed like annoying high school kids, and I just couldn’t get into the romance while they seem to have no chemistry and don’t seem to really like each other much either. In a genre flooded with different novels, I didn’t feel like this one was worth my time, and I think I’m done trying Rowell’s contemporary works, unless I break out of the YA genre.