PROS: - Outcasts and minorities have more visibility/representation. - Easy read. - Fairly good depiction of difficult home life. - Couple of nice, puppy...morePROS: - Outcasts and minorities have more visibility/representation. - Easy read. - Fairly good depiction of difficult home life. - Couple of nice, puppy love feels.
CONS: - Boring, contrived, and typical. - Offensive and exploitative. - Orientalism and fetishism of Asians. - Romanticization in all the wrong places.
COMMENTS: I have a lot of ambivalent feels about this book. Like many, it was recommended to me because I enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars. If you asked someone to describe me, one of the first things they'd say is that I wear my heart on my sleeve. Fabricate a wonderful story about a box named Chandra and I would travel with that character through pain and pleasure. You could make me fall for a charming and compassionate pencil. So if stories don't move me the way they were intended to, it's subpar. E&P is just that: subpar.
I can personally empathize with Eleanor's home situation and I'm glad Rowell brought it up. BUT I'm upset that that's all she did. The author focused on what a vile monster Richie (the antagonist) was and I wished she would've expanded on the family and their struggle with Richie more and less on Eleanor and Park's relationship. It's okay to illustrate teen insecurities—it's difficult growing up, seeing teen love usually doesn't last, and finding who you are, especially in complicated situations. However, that's all this book was about. Too much teen angst topped with social commentary to excuse racist/sexist remarks and token characters. Yes, it's the 80's. Yes, there was a lot more explicit racism. No, that doesn't excuse anything. If you wanna call a character out on racism/sexism, your work should be consistent and there should have been a lot more social commentary than there was. The commentary was so brief in this book, that it felt like the issues were swept under the rug to never be addressed again. Not only that, there were two young black women who never seemed fazed by their white peers. Honestly, the book would've probably been more engaging from their perspective. I guess in Rowell's world, she solved racism #RACISM-OVER.
On top of that, the author romanticized Eleanor's difficult home life by making it a situation for Eleanor to be saved from. Rowell never expanded on their home life with their father, her relationship with her mother, her relationship with her siblings—just focused on her resentment with them. No character growth in that. I also hated the romance between Park and Eleanor. It was so silly and Romeo & Juliet-like in nature. I struggled to believe it. The teenager in me fought to accept it like "AAARGH THEY'RE JUST KIDS!!! THEY CAN BELIEVE IN LOVE!!" But I just couldn't. It was unbearable and too juvenile.
I wonder how many impressionable young women wished to be in Eleanor's position—to pursue a dangerous "love" as a victim of abuse only to have a privileged kpop star-looking guy save them. Proooooobably a lot. Why is it that when white writers plug in a person of color into their stories, the characters have to be half-white and/or a sidekick person of color? Even if it isn't true, I felt like the author plugged a little bit of herself into the story so that she can live out a Korean idol star fantasy.
She also wouldn't let us forget that it was the mid-80's and that Park's mother has a Korean accent. Now, don't get me wrong. I want more books to emphasize on people's characteristics, including speech. If writers wrote as if everyone's English were all American-like, that just perpetuates xenophobic standards. That's exactly how Park felt to me—like he was embarrassed by his mother for not being able to speak better English or for not sounding like his white father. And that would have been fine because the xenophobia runs deep when a child is raised in American culture. But that wasn't a clear issue in the book; nobody's gonna be like "omg her accent is fine and why are you so mean to your mom park she speaks more languages than you jeez." In fact, knowing the demographic, they'd probably chime in and agree with Park or just overlook the detail. BAD WRITING!
I gave it a 2/5 stars because she deserves credit for not romanticizing Richie, teen insecurities, and for hitting so close to home about Eleanor's home life with Richie and her submissive mother. However, she got docked for romanticizing and exploiting that same abuse and fetishizing minorities. It would have been better to write from Eleanor's mother's point of view. Could have made for a much more powerful and true story of survival and bravery without bringing in Asians to exploit. Next time, I'm going to read the synopsis, listen to my intuition, and ignore pop culture bs written by white people who like to exploit "outcasts" and minorities to make a buck.
Keep your K-pop fantasies in your journal please because this is not okay. (less)
Yes, it's another fictional piece that attempts to bring philosophy and bittersweet hopefulness through the exploitation of illnesses—only it succeeds...moreYes, it's another fictional piece that attempts to bring philosophy and bittersweet hopefulness through the exploitation of illnesses—only it succeeds in the message it brings. I am currently thinking up a proper review that won't be written on my phone; although I don't doubt that what I'd want to say hasn't already been said.(less)
PROS: → Easy read. → Great dialogue. → Fairly good pacing. → Fairly realistic.
CONS: → Something BIG happens and it's brushed off to easily. → Virginia's r...morePROS: → Easy read. → Great dialogue. → Fairly good pacing. → Fairly realistic.
CONS: → Something BIG happens and it's brushed off to easily. → Virginia's relationship with her family is left too open-ended.
COMMENTS: This was a pretty good read. It's written in a way that feels like Virginia (the main character) sounds like she's talking to the reader so that makes it a lot easier. I have a few major complaints with this book; there are just a couple of things I wanted to bring up.
As far as Virginia's parents go, it was great that things got better between the three of them but I wish there was more. It left me asking, "Did her mother start treating her better? Are they more communicative as a family? Did they handle Byron in the way he deserves to be handled?" There were too many loose ends and I wish there was something more that would have given the reader a good understanding that Virginia has a better, more concrete relationship with her parents.
I'm glad that Virginia's reaction to what her older brother did was realistic. She would never forgive him; nor would I if someone close to me did something so horrendous. When she visited Annie, I felt like Annie's reaction to the situation was too easy. Had it been more like Chunhua's reaction in Episode 4 of Harry's Law (great show, by the way, I definitely recommend it) where it showed that she was in extreme emotional pain, sought her friends for support, went to therapy, and then she explained that she wouldn't let the situation get the best of her as opposed to her just saying, "I'm okay. I won't let it get the best of me," it would have been much more realistic and empowering. The author could have written another 50 pages depicting the relationship Virginia and Annie develop together. There seemed to be no struggle with Annie and I wish the author would have illustrated that better because this scene could have been so much more than what it is.
I also wish that, in all of his shame, the author developed Byron (Virginia's brother) more and that he'd at least apologize. Her family as well. It angered me that no one visited Annie except for Virginia and even her visit wasn't satisfying enough. The fact that she learned something from what Annie said was also unsatisfactory. It's important that young women see the steps of recovery if you're gonna write about such a sensitive topic.
There were a couple of characters I wish the author developed more. Anais, for example. You never see her. I know she's in the Peace Corps but she could have written letters back and forth with Virginia to better show her thoughts and more of her personality. She's always spoken about in past tense and she sounds like a character I could be friends with. I also wish they developed Alyssa Wu a littler more rather than just being the jittery, Asian girl, especially if the author is going to pair her up with someone.
Most of the ending felt a bit like the author rushed it because she had another project on the side which is a shame because this book had a lot of potential to empower women. It's great that she brought body image into the picture the way she did. Virginia started out as self-loathing but I like the way she grew to love herself more and stop caring about what others think. I believe that's a positive message to send out to young women. I just wish the plot and the rest of the characters were just as well-developed.(less)