The Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Summary: An IT worker, tasked with reading company emails, falls in love with one of the people he is snooping on.

Last year, Rainbow Rowell started getting a lot of attention for her 2012 book, Eleanor & Park.  In part, the attention was for winning several awards including the 2014 Michael Printz Honor Book for Excellence in Young Adult Literature and in part it is because a couple of parents protested its inclusion in their student’s high school curriculum.

The protest was because at one point the two of the characters have sex.  Which is not unusual in young adult books.  But Rowell has said she did not intend to write a young adult book.  Instead she wrote a book about young adults and it was only later (after it was published in the UK and marketed toward adults and gained a following) that it was marketed as a young adult book in the US.  (And the sex was low key and off the screen.)

Even knowing this, I still have read Rowell as primarily a young adult author.  The second book that I read by Rowell was her 2013 book Fangirl.  Fangirl was about college age students but still was on edge of that young adult genre label.

I am a fan of young adult books and young adult does not deter me at all.  But I still approached Attachments (Rowell’s first novel) as if it were also young adult.

It is set in 1999-2000.  The protagonist, Lincoln O’Neill has just gotten his first real job after a very long college career.  He was hired by a local newspaper to work a night shift in IT.  The main part of his job is to police a strict email usage policy.  Most nights all he has to do is read through a couple dozen emails that were flagged by the email software and then write warnings to any offenders.

Soon Lincoln is reading emails between Beth and Jennifer.  At first, Lincoln does not send them a warning because they are joking about being caught by the email usage policy.  But then he doesn’t send them a warning because they seem nice.  After a while, the only thing he is really looking forward to at work is reading their emails.  And then Beth starts talking about a new cute guy at work and eventually Lincoln realizes she means him.  But he can never date someone after he has been reading their emails.  Especially when the emails are about him.

There was never really a point where I thought Lincoln and Beth would not end up together.  This isn’t really that type of book.  Instead it a look at how two people might fall in love without really ever meeting.

As with Rowell’s other two books there is also a coming of age theme.  In this book the characters are in their late 20s, so much older than the 19 year olds in Fangirl and the 16 year olds in Eleanor and Park.  Because the characters were older, the issues were slightly different but I enjoyed the book just as much as the first two.  And the coming of age, and what it means to be an adult, how to separate from parents and other safe people is still relevant for a novel about people in their late 20s.

The setting was a bit strange for me.  I was in my late 20s at about the same time.  So I kept feeling like the cultural references to songs and movies were off.  They all seemed like the references were too recent to have been 15 years ago.  But each time I looked, the references matched the setting.  The problem is that I am old enough that 15 years does not seem that long ago when I think about movie and music references.

I have been enjoying ‘fluff’ books lately.  I am not completely sure I would count this as a fluff book however.  It seems weightier than that, although it is certainly not a heavy literary fiction tome.  Keeping the narrator as Lincoln and only hearing the women’s voices through their emails kept it from feeling like it was romance book (although one of its categories is contemporary romance at Amazon.)  This would make a good beach read. It is light, funny, has some thoughtful movements and is well characterized.  (And if you are older than 25, you might enjoy reliving Y2K.)

The Attachments by Rainbow Rowell Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audible.com Audiobook

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