Friday, September 12, 2014

Contemporary Fiction: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

I decided to go back a little bit to Rainbow Rowell's first novel, Attachments. Like Landline, Attachments is one of Rowell's novels written for adults, unlike Eleanor & Park and Fangirl. I was excited to check out her very first novel after being so delighted with nearly everything else she has written.

The Situation: Lincoln O'Neill works for the local newspaper as the IT guy, fixing computers that aren't connecting to the network and monitoring the young group of kids that were tasked with making sure everything in the office is Y2K compliant. It is the later half of 1999 and the office for The Courier newspaper only recently became connected to the Internet, which also means inter-office email for the staff. Beth Fremont, the movie critic, and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder, a features copy editor, joke around about the possibility that someone is monitoring their email, but that doesn't keep them from writing to each other back and forth during work hours. Because their conversation isn't work related, it is constantly flagged by the system and sent to Lincoln for review. His main job it to more or less read people's email. Normally, the next step would be to send both Beth and Jennifer a warning, but he never does. And the emails keep coming. And he keeps reading them. 

The Problem: Lincoln keeps telling himself that he'll stop reading Beth and Jennifer's exchanges. Especially when he realizes he is developing feelings for Beth, and he has been reading her emails way too long for reasonable explanation. If they were to meet, his options would be to either keep his already fairly intimate knowledge of her and her friend a secret, or tell her the truth and risk ruining the relationship before it even began. Plus, she has a boyfriend. And he lives at home with his mother and still isn't completely over the one serious relationship he has ever had that ended terribly nine years ago. It has always been hard for Lincoln to meet new people, and outside of his regular Dungeons and Dragons group, and an old friend from college who has become obsessed with the band that Beth's boyfriend plays lead guitar for, he has his mom and his sister. And he isn't unattractive, which is evidenced by the petite blonde who makes it a point to run into him at work. But she just isn't the one he wants to run into. And the more time goes by without Lincoln saying anything, the less likely it is he'll have any chance, however small, with Beth.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a fiction novel set in late 1999 early 2000, just when the Y2K paranoia was at its highest, and then proved to be not worth the hype. There is some talk of characters stocking up on toilet paper and canned goods in order to be prepared to ride out the oncoming apocalypse, and with Lincoln being in IT, he has to deal with making sure the newspaper computers are prepared from the numbers to roll over. Attachments is able to take a look at a time when the Internet hasn't quite become the pervasive force it is today. The first email exchange Lincoln reads between Beth and Jennifer is dated August 9, 1999, and over the next few months he'll go from curious, to interested, to practically in love, and all without becoming too creepy about the whole invasion of privacy thing. Essentially, it is a romantic comedy (there were parts where I laughed out loud) in book form. Beth could easily be played by Amy Adams, with Lee Pace as Lincoln.

My Verdict: If this book were made into a movie, I would totally watch it the weekend it came out even though I am actually not that into romantic comedies. Attachments is really just that good. I shouldn't have been surprised, I mean, this is a Rowell book after all. But it isn't just that the story is cute, and sweet, and funny. It is all of those things, but also without overdoing it or becoming too sappy. And there are real issues that come up in the story as well, stuff beyond poking fun at Y2K and Dungeons and Dragons. Everything in this book seems to be in a healthy balance, including the characters. No one is overly irritating, even the characters that are obviously supposed to be the ones the reader rolls their eyes at. It is just a good fun book, which I am starting to believe is simply Rowell's specialty.

Favorite Moment: *spoiler alert* When Lincoln and Beth finally run into each other in a movie theater after months of him reading her email and her knowing who he is and having a crush on him, despite her having a boyfriend.

Favorite Character: Despite his social awkwardness and somewhat stunted personal growth, Lincoln is actually a really great character. Once he actually puts himself out there and begins meeting new people, he discovers he is better at socializing than he thought and people actually like being around him.

Recommended Reading: You really can't go wrong with anything written by Rowell. Fangirl is my personal favorite, but is more for young adult readers, as is Eleanor & Park. Landline is her more recent novel written for adults, and also has an element of reaching into the pre-millennium past. 

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