You’ve probably written your letter to
mum/dad Santa by now, but if your parents are anything like mine, they’re still nagging to find out what ‘stocking fillers’ you want. Books are usually my go to, and I have a great suggestion for your Christmas list.
Eleanor & Park is a young adult novel by Rainbow Rowell, an American writer, and earns its place as a UnitedKpop Book Corner read because simply: Park is Korean.
Why is Park Korean? I personally don’t think it matters – and neither did Rowell until forced to answer that question more times than she cared to. He’s Korean because Rowell believes there should be more Asian-American characters in YA, especially boys. He’s Korean because that is how Rowell immediately imagined him. Park is Korean, because he is.
Eleanor & Park is the story of two characters that appear a little unconventional for a novel.
Eleanor is new in town, she has wild red hair, mismatched clothes and describes herself as ‘fat’, though she’s probably not as fat as she thinks. Her family life is far from easy though no one seems to notice. But she stands out like a sore thumb.
Park is that boy at the back of the school bus, he wears black, he appears glued to his headphones and comics. His parents are embarrassingly loved up and everyone notices. But he is invisible.
Set in 1986 their friendship blooms over mixtapes of The Smiths and The Beatles; the newly releasing Watchmen comics; and references to the likes of Dr King and Clint Eastwood.
This is a coming of age novel, the pair of sixteen year olds, find themselves falling in love. Their love is sweet, often confusing, at times it’s innocent, others display the curiosity of young love; Eleanor & Park fulfils all the rollercoaster emotions of falling in love for the first time.
Though the focal point of the novel is their blossoming love it is underpinned with messages about acceptance and perception of others. It asks the innocently curious questions of those experiencing new people and emotions; and shows the flaws in some of those questions. It is an important novel, because of the unconventional lead characters, and their learning curve.
You find yourself asking your own questions, and identifying with the characters in many ways. You might be Eleanor, you might be Park, you might feel like both of them. You can resist falling for the pair, becoming invested in their journey, and wishing for a happy ending.
The only downside you may find to this book is Park’s full name. You’d have to know the basics of Korean names to notice it though (but given you’re reading a UnitedKpop review, you probably will).
Park is most likely named for his mother’s family name. Mindy (or Min Dae) took her husband’s surname upon marriage, and her eldest son is named Park Sheridan, a little unusual to say the least.
Rowell is right, YA literature needs more mixed race character, YA literature needs more characters that don’t fit the media’s beauty standards. Eleanor & Park is morally important, and a definite must-read for many young adults … or older adults for that matter.