Don’t Ban Eleanor & Park

71lklmxqgjlWith 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 ncac@ncac.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.71lklmxqgjl

What I’ve Been Reading

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky:  I’m not sure why I’ve never read this book before.  This is one of those books that I’m pretty sure everyone has read except me.  I enjoyed it quite a bit.  The narrator has an interesting and unique voice.  He’s writing letters to an unknown person, and at first I thought that would annoy me, but it was done well enough that I liked it.  The characters were quirky and memorable, and I found the teenage drama believable.  I definitely recommend.

The Face by Dean Koontz:  This is one of my favorite Dean Koontz books.  An anarchist has a plot to mess up the life of the world’s biggest movie star.  The head of security is a nice guy who has to match wits with him.  Add in some paranormal stuff, like the head of security’s recently deceased ex-best friend, who might not be so dead after all, and it’s a book I can’t put down.

Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing by Larry Brooks:  If you’re a fiction writer, you have to read this book.  A friend recommended it, and I figured it would be like every other writing book ever made; chock full of good writing advice, but lacking any concrete tips.  Wrong!  This book is so useful, and has made me love writing even more than I did.  It’s gotten me excited about storytelling because it tells me where all my ideas should go in the narrative.  I’ve tried outlining a million times, which has never quite worked for me.  This one has.

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls:  I’ve been wanting to reread this one for awhile.  It’s technically young adult, though it was published when that genre didn’t exist.  If there’s anyone out there who hasn’t read it, it’s a coming of age book about a young boy who works to get hunting dogs, and their bond and adventures together.  It makes me laugh and cry, no matter how many times I read it.  There are always certain parts I hope will magically change, so that when I read the book this time, I don’t have to be sad.  I read it anyway because there’s magic in the pages.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell:  This is one of my favorite new books.  (Okay, it’s not new, but it’s new to me.)  Neither Eleanor nor Park quite fit in, and they don’t like one another either.  Until they do.  They’re wonderful characters, with a sweet, believable romance.  I didn’t realize that I’d read until 3 a.m. until I finished the book and realized I was half asleep.  It was that good.

Have you read any of these?  What’d you think?