John Green tweeted his list of the five best YA novels to get this Christmas for the YA in your life you love. As every YA reader and Nerdfighter knows, when John Green talks about books, people listen. I picked Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell, and then decided to read it myself. I love when first-time novelists knock it out of the park, and the success of this book lies not only in how good it is, but also the review John Green gave it in the New York Times. It was a rave and included the line, “Eleanor & Park” reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.”
It’s the story of two sixteen-year-olds in Omaha in 1986. They are both outcasts; him for being half-Korean and a comic book geek, and her for being overweight and having a bushel of flaming red curly hair and for being a weird dresser. She gets bullied because she is outside of the high school norm.
They were reading Romeo and Juliet in their first English class together. The teacher asked why they thought it was still so popular after 400 years. He guessed, “Because it reminds people of what it’s like to be young and in love?”
Eleanor and Park reminds us, too.
Their relationship developed slowly, on the school bus. They slowly, shyly and tentatively make hand holding seem so sensual. It brought back all the nonsensical, wonderful things I did at sixteen.
I googled the book and surprise, surprise, it’s been banned. A group of parents said it was “dangerously obscene.” The article said, “the parents counted 227 offending words, including 67 “Gods”, 24 “Jesuses,” and four “Christs.”
Oh, for Christ sake.
Instead of going through the book with a highlighter and searching for and counting all the bad words, maybe they could have read it. Then they’d have learned the bad words are said by the bullies and the abusive stepfather, not the protaganists.
Dear parents who banned this book:
Rainbow does write the word fuck now and then. You know who else uses the word fuck? Your teenager. They’ve known the word since kindergarten. You think they don’t know it because you’ve never heard them say it in front of you. They don’t use it in front of you because A), they’re not stupid (hopefully) and B), they know the rules of the house. See? They are respecting you right there. You’ve already taught them well. Now, stop treating them like they are in second grade. They fucking know the word fuck already. Fucking trust me. Reading it in a book is not going to make them say it in front of you, any more than Catcher in the Rye made them run away from school, Lord of the Flies made them sadistic monsters or Macbeth made them murder the king. Fucking cut the cord, already.
As far as taking the name of the Lord in vain, I do understand how that troubles you. But instead of telling all the teenagers in your school district they can’t read it, you could try this parental advice: You’ve already taught your little prince or princess not to use His name in vain, and I’m sure except for an occasional “Oh my God,” they remember not to. Your house, your rules. Best of luck getting them to adhere to that once they become adults, but hope springs.
Now, instead of worrying about silly things that do not affect your kid at all, you could think about how this book can help someone who is being bullied feel less alone. Isn’t that a worthier goal than protecting your kid from reading things he/she’s read/heard a million times? This is the type of book anyone would want their teenager to read if becoming a decent human being is a priority. The two leads don’t even get to second base in it. No sex! That’s a huge plus for overbearing parents.
I love Eleanor and I love Park and I’m so glad Hollywood will never be able to make this into a movie. They’d never have a feature film where the female love interest wasn’t paper thin and beautiful. Oh, wait, I just remembered they cast Emma Stone to play the very unattractive, gangly Skeeter Phelan in The Help. So, I guess Hollywood could still ruin it.