The problem with Eleanor & Park

Sometimes you come across a book that stands a little bit outside of it’s genre. It’s is still in the genre, but almost on the outskirts. An outsider, looking out, instead of looking in. Eleanor & Park is one of these books. A true Young Adult novel, but somehow a bit different. It ticks all the boxes: teenaged protagonists who are somewhat dissatisfied with their life, a love story, a high-school setting, parental issues, bullying, and a suburban setting; but at the same time, we never find out if there’s a happy ending, and a lot of the darkness is never illuminated.

Eleanor & Park is a beautiful book, I remember reading it in a dark bar. The atmosphere surrounding me matched that of the pages.

I loved Eleanor & Park. But I have one grievance. Only one:

A huge part of the story and the issues Eleanor deals with is her weight. She is not a slight girl, like we usually see in YA fictions.

Eleanor is fat. The author (Rainbow Rowell) even says so herself in an interview: “She has curly red hair, a thousand freckles, and a smile that can be scary. She’s pale. She’s fat. And Park thinks she’s beautiful—so she is.”

Rowell goes on to discuss how she hopes fellow fat girls “see themselves in Eleanor. And believe they’re as lovable as she is.”

She even wrote a blog post on how Eleanor is fat!

And it is so refreshing to read.

But. On the cover(s), Eleanor is skinny.

Dear Publisher/whoever was in charge of this: why did you put a skinny girl on the cover if she is actually fat?

Because now the conflicting message of the book is: it’s okay to be fat. People will still love you. But only if we can’t see you, only if you are fat in words, not in pictures. Because skinny sells. No one will buy a cover with a fat girl on it.

At this rate, they’ll cast a skinny girl too.

One thought on “The problem with Eleanor & Park

  1. What a thought-provoking review. I hadn’t even clicked that Eleanor was portrayed as slim on the cover. I imagine it is a result of poor communication between those who have read the book and those who were on the design team. This oversight, as you say, has some pretty negative consequences! I agree, and I hope if/when casting happens for the film (has it been confirmed yet?) then they cast a big girl, not just someone a little bit curvy!


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