Falling in love with a book is exactly like falling in love with a person. In both cases, most of the time you just can’t help yourself, and what happens during the falling is almost entirely out of your control. This is an especially appropriate metaphor to be making when talking about Rainbow Rowell’s delightful little book, Attachments, which is about a man falling in love in a very inappropriate way. This is what I wrote on Goodreads approximately one minute and thirty-one seconds after finishing the last page at 2 AM on Saturday night:
“FUCKING HELL, MAN. Why is this so . . . GUH . . . and it’s the middle of the night and I’M SO ALONE.”
I believe that sentence and my five star rating should speak for itself, but I would like to elaborate anyway because when you fall in love with something you want to tell everybody about it as loudly and in as many ways as possible.
Attachments takes place in 1999, just before the turn of the millennium and all the madness of Y2K (remember Y2K? It was like practice for the Mayan apocalypse!). Twenty-eight year old perpetual student Lincoln is fresh off his latest graduate degree and is stuck in a rut in basically every area of his life: he lives with his mother, he has no foreseeable career objectives (he can’t even figure out what it is that he might be good at), he has no social life to speak of excepting Saturday night games of D&D with his lifelong friends, and he hasn’t even attempted a romantic relationship since his heart was smashed into pieces eight years before by the girl he thought he’d be with forever.
As the novel opens, Lincoln has just taken a job in a Nebraska newspaper’s IT department where he is in charge of the newly developed email security program that monitors employee’s email accounts for inappropriate usage. It’s a bit of a creepy job reading other people’s emails and sending them warnings, not to mention tedious and boring, but it’s at least a job. He spends most of his time reading books and doing other non work-related activities. That is, until he accidentally becomes wrapped up in the correspondence of two employees, film critic Beth and copyeditor Jennifer, who are smart and funny and who little by little begin treating their work email accounts as a personal chat service. After about the fourth or fifth flagged conversation, Lincoln realizes it’s too late to send them a warning and with not a little guilt begins looking forward to each flagged email, especially when it becomes clear to him that not only is he developing feelings for Beth, but she has a little crush on him as well. The only problem is, if he wants to be with her, how can he do so knowing that he’s just spent a ridiculous amount of time violating her personal privacy?
The novel is a mix between Lincoln’s 3rd person POV and a delightful modern epistolary confection consisting of Jennifer and Beth’s increasingly personal emails to one another. Jennifer and Beth are immediately very likeable. Their conversations with one another are funny and warm and occasionally sort of surprisingly heart-rending. That they were so likeable is key, because the novel wouldn’t have worked if we as readers were not able to overcome the basic creepiness of Lincoln’s actions. We want Lincoln to keep reading about Jennifer and Beth because WE want to keep reading about Jennifer and Beth. His actions as Rowell writes them, while a bit icky, are also completely understandable. There’s also the fact that Lincoln himself is a delightful character, and I quickly found myself wishing he was real because, seriously, I have been looking for him all my life. But it’s not only that he’s likable. His struggles as an aimless and confused young adult unsure of what he wanted to do with himself was one I could relate to in very specific ways. The sharp wit of Rowell’s dialogue and prose doesn’t hurt, either. This was also the perfect time period to set this book. The transition from tradition to technology at the newspaper echoes Lincoln’s own stumbling transition to adulthood.
This is probably not a book many other readers will give five stars to, but it hit all of my personal buttons in all the right ways. Like, to the point where I was all, Rainbow Rowell, either get out of my head or be my best friend. But even if you don’t fall crazy in love and over-identify with it like I did, it’s still worth checking out as the perfect example of this kind of romancey, character-driven novel. It’s well-written, funny, has great characters, and is overall a super-fun read. If you like good romantic comedies like When Harry Met Sally and Love, Actually, just imagine that this is like a book version of that and you’ll have a pretty good idea. I am now eagerly anticipating the two (!) books Rainbow Rowell is publishing later this year.