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Parents' Guide to

Eleanor & Park

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Well-intended 1980s-set romance has troubling stereotypes.

Eleanor & Park book cover: Two characters sit facing with backs to audience, both are wearing over-ear headphones, one has long, curly red hair, the other short black hair.

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 15+

Based on 17 parent reviews

age 15+

Please find other books to read.

In the time since this book’s debut, many readers (including myself) have realized this book contains a lot of casual racism, fetishization of Asians, and harmful stereotypes usually involving the Koreans and Korean-Americans in this story. Firstly, the author makes the two main characters out to be “strange” and “outsiders”. Eleanor is strange because of her red hair, and Park is “strange” because he… is Asian. The racism Park faces should not equate to Eleanor’s hair color and weight. Eleanor often focuses on the appearances of Park and his mother, usually in a negative way. She says, “His mom looked exactly like a doll… tiny and perfect… Eleanor imagined Park’s dad, Tom Selleck, tucking his Dainty China person into his flak jacket and sneaking her out of Korea.” The comparison is supposed to be a compliment about how delicate and “perfect” Park’s mother is, but it just furthers the stereotypes that Asians are tiny and “delicate”, and that all Asians are the same. She calls his mother a “dainty China person”, when she is in fact Korean. Eleanor later says, “Park’s eyes got wide. Well, sort of… Sometimes she wondered if the shape of his eyes effected how he saw things. That was probably the most racist question of all time”. She knows she's being racist, but no one ever does anything to change this. “Park” is a Korean last name, not first name. Park embodies many common East Asian stereotypes: he takes taekwondo (which is incorrectly used interchangeably with “kung fu”), is great at math, struggles in English, and is often described as “small” and “feminine-looking”. He also has a lot of self-loathing, mostly having to do with being half-Korean. Park also has a lot of internalized anti-Asian hatred, and doesn’t think he’s attractive specifically because he’s Asian. The book also contains harmful stereotypes in Eleanor’s friends, two Black girls who are only loud, sassy, and constantly ready to fight someone. There are many other things to say, but I wanted to keep this as concise as possible. Please seek other books by Authors of Color! Books I recommend instead: - Love From A to Z by S. K. Ali - To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han - Wicked Fox by Kat Cho - When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon - Frankly In Love by David Yoon
age 14+

Racist

Don't bother with this book. Eleanor is a character that constantly is racist to her "love interest," Park. Also, Park is not even a traditionally Korean first name, but a LAST NAME. The author stereotyped the people of color and characterized them mainly by racial stereotypes associated with their race. Park's own mother was called a "China Doll." Don't bother reading this book or watching the movie.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (17 ):
Kids say (74 ):

Author Rainbow Rowell touchingly explores the overwhelming nature of first love -- the kind of love that feels as if it can last a lifetime, that can help heal wounds and open doors. In Eleanor & Park, two high school misfits see the best and the beautiful in each other. Their passionate conversations and debates, about everything from the role of women in comic books (Eleanor says they're too passive, Park disagrees), to the opening measures of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" or the short-sightedness of Romeo and Juliet, lays the foundation for a believable and poignant love story.

It's unfortunate, then, that Rowell romanticizes the codependent aspects of their relationship, which edge into toxic one-sidedness whenever Eleanor takes out her traumas and insecurities on Park. This imbalance is also evident in that Rowell portrays Eleanor far better than she does Park, who's often reduced to fetishization and stereotypes. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that, as a White author, Rowell can't do Park's Korean heritage justice.

Book Details

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