All Things Bookish | Review | Eleanor & Park

“I don’t like you, Park. Sometimes I think I live for you.”


What the actual hell did I just read.

Imagine reading a book by an author, and really liking it. Naturally, you’d like the author, right?

Now imagine reading another book by the same author; one that everyone seems to love and one that a lot of people rave about and cry over.

And imagine that book being literal trash. 

I have never hated a book so much since Anna and the French Kiss (but that’s a story for another time.)

Look: I’m usually a very understanding and accepting person. If you like a book that I don’t, that’s totally okay. Not everyone can like the same thing. You have your opinion, and I have mine.

But if you like a book that has serious problematic issues, then I have to speak up. Because either: a) you’re not aware of those issues, or worse, b) you’re aware of them, but you deliberately choose to ignore them.

And if b) is the case, please don’t talk to me. I just can’t. I’m not used to writing aggressive reviews, so I’m trying to be a bit lenient here, but…

Screw that. I’m not being lenient with such a book.

Eleanor & Park is a book about two teenagers who ride the ever-popular roller-coaster of romance. Eleanor is the new student at Park’s school: a “big” girl who gets bullied relentlessly for her looks. He lets her sit on the bus next to him, and one thing leads to another, and romance and drama ensue.

That’s basically the whole book.

Spoilers start from here.

Now let me tell you: the book had a captivating beginning. The ending was well-written. I appreciated a “big girl” as a protagonist and romantic interest for once. In fact, at the beginning, I’d said that I’d reserve a star just for the tear-jerking prologue.

But the constant racism and poor Asian representation throws all that out the window.

I’m talking about Park: half-Korean. I was actually excited when I learnt about this because yay! A book with Asian rep, right??


I’m sorry, I just can’t. It’s worse because one of my best friends (scratch that, she’s my big sis for sure) is Korean, and seeing her culture being represented so badly? Yeah, you definitely crossed a thousand lines with that, Rowell.

Let’s start with the obvious: Park’s name. I’m a hundred and ten per cent sure that all it takes is a two-minute Google search to learn that Park is a common Korean name…

Surname, that is.

Great start, right? I can evidently see the time spent on research here. But I wish that was just it.

This book seriously disrespects Korean women. It’s described that Park’s father served in Korea during the Korean War, and that’s where he met his mother. When he had to return, he “pocketed” the “porcelain doll” woman and took her with him.

And then there’s this, too:

“Eleanor imagined Park’s dad, Tom Selleck, tucking his Dainty China person into his flak jacket and sneaking her out of Korea.”

I can’t even begin to express my anger at this sentence.

Rowell, for God’s sake. What were you thinking?

Korean women-and all women-aren’t some prize you bring home with you. They have lives. They have a home. They’re not some object that men just “tuck in” and “take” with them. How could you say that?!

Moreover, Park knows pretty much nothing about his Korean family, which was left behind when his mother was, as it is offensively put, “pocketed”. What’s the point of attempting to “represent” a race if you’re just going to disregard it? Honestly? If you can’t portray Asians properly, you should have just gone for some white characters instead.

Not to mention, there is this extremely insulting description that states that, when Park smiles, “his eyes disappear into his cheeks”.

I give you one second to spot what’s wrong with this sentence.

Answer: absolutely freaking everything.

What exactly are you trying to say here? What even is the point of this sentence? Why is it included? It literally serves no purpose but to add more racism on top of all the racism found throughout this book.

Also, question: what’s up with Eleanor repeatedly and excessively referring to Park as “exotic”? Because he’s Korean?

Hm, or was that Park complaining about how Asian women have it “better” because white men think they’re “exotic”?

Yes, Park. I mean, just look at your mom. She stays home all day and doesn’t get to see her family. She totally has it better. (*sigh* “Exotic”? Really?)

There is definitely much more to be said, but if I go on, this review will stretch on for ages. You now know why I just can’t give this book a single star.

Nevertheless, let’s move on to Eleanor.

Ah, supposedly “unique” and “weird-in-a-good-way” Eleanor. What harm could she have possibly done?

Well, let’s write a list.

  • she constantly expresses her love for Park by saying how she wants to “eat him up” or “eat his face”. She additionally says he makes her a “cannibal”
  • she fetishises Koreans (“‘I don’t know if I’m thinking you’re cute because you’re Korean, but I don’t think it’s in spite of it. I just think that you’re cute.’ […] ‘Maybe I’m really attracted to Korean guys,’ she said, ‘and I don’t even know it.'”
  • when Park’s mom puts make-up on her, she cries because it’s not “her” and suddenly she’s “someone else” and she’s “fake”. She compares her own little sister to the whore of Babylon for putting on make-up. Her own little sister.
  • she stirs up drama for no frickin’ reason. She comes to know that Park dated Tina (one of Eleanor’s bullies) when they were twelve, and proceeds to be disgusted with him for it. They were twelve. He didn’t even know you existed back then! What’s your problem?!

Needless to say, Eleanor is one of the worst characters I have ever seen. All her disturbing and despicable thoughts and opinions are excused and sometimes even glorified because she comes from an abusive household. It’s as if her entire background is mainly so that the reader could take pity on her and side with her opinion no matter what. I’m sorry to say that I’ve seen a lot of readers fall into this trap.

Speaking of her background, I still don’t understand why her mother is so adamant on defending Richie, and if not defending, then putting up with him. There’s no proper explanation offered at all, nothing like, “she’d have no way of providing for her children if she demanded a divorce”, or “she can’t afford the time and money”. Nothing. All I see are poor parenting skills and negligence. Sabrina allows her own daughter to be kicked out and to stay at some people’s house for a whole year. A whole frickin’ year.

Let me ask you a question: if you were a parent, and your spouse kicked your child out for something utterly trivial and laughable, would you stand by and see them go? I don’t care if you have the entire world on your shoulders. That is your child. Your own blood, sweat and tears. If you want to be a parent, your child is priority. Not your lazy-ass spouse who sprawls on the couch all day with beer bottles strewn all over the floor, and shoots at kids in the neighbourhood for being “loud”.

Why did her mother even marry Richie, anyway? Because he said she was the “prettiest woman” he’d ever seen and asked for her number? There’s just no proper explanation.

Believe it or not, there is yet more to add: Eleanor and Park’s unhealthy relationship.

Park becomes extremely dependent on Eleanor over the course of the book. Not even two weeks into dating (or knowing her, whatever), he goes like: “I think I love you.”

And after that, he suddenly doesn’t want to do anything without Eleanor. He ditches his friends for her, and even bails out on his own family, because “what if Eleanor comes over??”. And somehow, this is interpreted as “loyalty” or “romance”. He’s so “in love” that he can’t spend even a second away from her.

Now, of course, if it were a girl doing this…

“What a traitor! Whatever happened to ‘sisters before misters’, am I right?!”

“Ugh, she’s so clingy!”

“What’s her problem? Why can’t she just depend on herself for once?”

This is not okay. If you’re in a relationship, and you find that you literally can’t function without your significant other, it’s time to take a break. This is not what relationships are about. They’re about finding comfort in someone, being able to freely talk to someone, to be weird without them judging you, to make their day when they’re upset…

Not, you know, throwing everything away for them. You have a right to your opinion, for God’s sake. If your significant other expects you to be at their beck and call, then you need to have a serious talk.

Well, that’s…that’s mostly it. I mean, there’s more, but if I have to point out more racism/fetishism/unhealthy relationship characteristics, I’m going to break something. I think that’s more than enough to get the general idea.

Does this mean I won’t read Rowell’s other books? As much time as it will take for me to actually pick up another one, I do plan to read them, yes. (Besides Eleanor & Park, I’ve only read Fangirl so far.) I believe in judging each book separately, but I will never, ever look at this author the same way again. There is absolutely no way she can win my respect back.

Does this mean I hate you if you like Eleanor & Park? No, I don’t hate you. As I stated previously, maybe you’re not aware of this. Now that you are, I understand that it might be hard to let go of this book that you used to like. But please, please do let go. This is unacceptable. Imagine your own race disrespected in such a manner. Imagine the people hurt and angered by this.

That’s all I have to say, I guess.

Have you read Eleanor & Park? Thoughts?

Stay creative,


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