I had a plan for Rainbow Rowell. Like that box of gluten free graham crackers tucked in the back of my pantry just waiting for marshmallows and chocolate or the one wonderful season of My So-Called Life, her books were going to be a once a year treat. With only one left to go, I made a point to keep Attachments off my library Holds list. Forgot it existed – perfect sunshined it out of mind. Then MoonPie brought it home all proud of himself for being thoughtful. I turned it around on the shelf so the spine wouldn’t tempt me, but then the peach edges of the cover got me.
Call it a moment of weakness.
Attachments is Rainbow Rowell’s first published novel. It’s set during the last few months of 1999 in a newspaper office where one lonely IT guy can’t stop reading the highly personal emails of his faceless dream girl. It’s his job.
Fresh from earning his third college degree, Lincoln has no money and lives with his mom. He’s taken the first job he could get though he doesn’t feel very good about it. He’s in the IT department at a newspaper and a good portion of his job is reading employee emails. Anything flagged goes in his inbox.
Life. Purpose. Those are the things that you can’t plan for. Those are the things that just happen. And what if they don’t happen? Do you spend your whole life pining for them? Waiting to be happy?
Lincoln had his heart broken and now he finally wants to move on but he doesn’t know how. He’s stuck. Working nights is depressing. It sends him deeper into a funk and not having much to do at his new jobby job makes it worse. Besides the emails are incredibly dull. Things change when editor Jennifer and movie critic Beth start emailing back and forth, wondering if their emails are flagged, throwing in flag-worthy words just to see. They know the company has some mysterious department policing emails and they don’t really care. They gots things to discuss: Jennifer needs to confide about why she’s so scared to start a family and Beth needs to vent about her hot rocker long term boyfriend who has no intention of ever marrying her.
Rather than sending them the standard warning email and putting a stop to their hilarity right then, Lincoln lets them slide because their exchanges make him LOL. We get to know Jennifer and Beth the same way Lincoln does, through their emails alone. This bothered me. I don’t like when stories are weighed down with diary entries or heavy correspondences. I get why Rowell did it, but as a reader I felt detached from Jennifer and Beth and their bantering emails were tedious to read after the tenth exchange.
Though they work in the same place, Lincoln’s late shift prevents him from finding out what Beth looks like. Still he develops feelings for her. By this point it’s too late to send the warning email because then they’ll know he’s been reading them all along. This conflict I really liked. The stakes here aren’t crazy high, but by now you care about Lincoln and agree that he and Beth might be perfect for each other. But how does he get around the sanctioned snooping he did before he knew how much he liked her?
This is a cute, satisfying love story. It lacks the ahhhhhh magic of Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, but it works. He likes her so much and as it turns out someone likes him, too. Whereas Lincoln knows Beth only through her very private emails to a Jennifer, his secret admirer knows only his appearance. Both get a little stalky to the point of concerning friends, but the situation doesn’t feel that weird to him.
The story doesn’t have nostalgic-for-the-90s touches, but no other time period would’ve worked. Today’s version would be even creepier with some overpaid NSA agent spying on silly chats or poorly spelled texts. A contemporary email love story wouldn’t be believable. I can’t remember the last time I sent someone an expressive email – it’s a paragraph-free zone.
Is there a word for reading every book an author has written? I need to know because now I’ve read all of Rainbow Rowell’s books. All four of them. Here are the reviews in order of how much I loved them: