With Banned Book Week coming up next week, I thought it was important to talk about a book I liked. Eleanor & Park is a YA novel published in 2013 that’s been challenged a number of times by people who think that parts of it are offensive or inappropriate.
This is an open letter regarding the challenges to Eleanor & Park. I’ve also sent a copy of this letter to firstname.lastname@example.org
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing to you about Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell. I’m an adult who read, and loved this book.
I know that this book has been challenged a lot, and I wanted to let you know why I think that it shouldn’t be banned.
I read this book breathlessly, in one day. I stayed up late because I couldn’t put it down.
This is exactly the kind of book I wish I’d had when I was growing up. Both Eleanor and Park were so real. I could empathize with Eleanor. The strange girl who feels overweight and uncomfortable. Who wants to fit in, but also wants to stand out and be noticed for who she is.
The dominant themes in the books are domestic violence, child abuse, body image issues, and bullying. While I couldn’t relate to all of those issues, I could relate to some. As an awkward teen, I would have loved to read a book that talked these issues in a candid way.
What makes this book so magical is that even though those issues are big and important in the book, the story is ultimately about Eleanor and Park, and how they find one another and fall in love. Too many stories about big issues are about the big issues, and ignore the human factor, that people can have problems, lots of problems, and still want to fall in love. Still want to have friends and find their tribe, the people for whom it doesn’t matter if they’re weird or overweight or have things going on at home.
Don’t try to deny kids the right to read this book. Don’t try to screen kids from reality. It doesn’t work. Because they’re either going through some of these issues, or they know someone else who is. Reading fiction like this can help make us all into more sensitive, caring human beings. Reading fiction like this can help teens be more prepared for navigating difficult issues. If nothing else, books like this means that it’s okay to talk about these things. It gives teens a language to talk about it, a voice to represent them, and a venue to discuss it, even if they don’t say that it’s about them.
I sympathized with both Eleanor and Park. I laughed out loud sometimes. And I cried at other parts. The ending was lovely and perfect.
Life is messy. This book helps to make sense of some of that.
Thanks for your time.
If you read this book, what do you think? If you have an opinion, here’s a link to Rainbow Rowell’s website where she explains what you can do to help fight censorship of this book.