Several months ago, I inherited my grandmother’s Kindle. While I have my fair share of mixed feelings about e-readers, there are some books that are just suited to the quick-click nature of a Kindle. Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments is one of those novels. I absolutely devoured this one–started and finished in less than twenty-four hours. It’s ever so consumable, which makes Attachments the perfect book to take with you poolside or to the beach this summer.
Beth and Jennifer are two friends on the cusp of their thirties, working at their local newspaper. Lincoln is the internet security officer tasked with monitoring the paper’s emails for inappropriate conduct. The girls are constantly breaking the rules by gossiping and sharing personal emails on the company’s time, but Lincoln can’t bring himself to send the pair a warning. Though he feels a dreadful amount of guilt over reading their emails, Lincoln feels a friendly connection towards Beth and Jennifer. His guilt ratchets up another notch when he realizes he’s falling for Beth without ever having met her in person. As Lincoln works up his courage in order to introduce himself, Beth and Jennifer are struggling to figure out what they want from their own lives.
Despite the potentially off-putting topic of company surveillance, Attachments is one of the most adorable office dramas I’ve ever read. Set on the eve of Y2K fever, the novel still captivates those of us trying to define living in the digital era. Making connections through computers is something that many can relate to, though usually not without an online profile. It helps that the characters are also endearingly neurotic. You read their emails or their inner monologues and think to yourself that you’ve been there, you’ve had those conversations.
The chapters are pleasantly short, which enables the novel’s consumable quality. The perspectives alternate between Beth and Jennifer’s emails and Lincoln’s narration. As you read the girls’ emails, you know Lincoln has read them too, making the readers complicit in his prying. In a way, Attachments reminds me of one of my favorite Meg Cabot novels, The Boy Next Door. Cabot’s book is a longer read and is carried out entirely through emails, but the humor is something that both novels share. I snorted, chortled, and cackled through this book. The kind of involuntary laughs that take you by surprise and show that you really enjoyed something.
One of the things I appreciated most about this novel was that it was a coming of age story for all three main characters, and that they’re not teenagers. Too often when we hear the phrase “coming of age” in literature it is applied to teens, and while that may be an accurate experience for some, others take a bit longer to come into their own. At twenty-three, I’m still trying to figure things out for myself, and it was comforting to read about characters in their late twenties doing the same. Lincoln’s still living with his mother, Beth is stuck in a dead-end relationship, and Jennifer is battling the societal pressure to become a mom. Each character makes strides in discovering what it means to be in a family or a relationship, but they make mistakes too. As with life, their mistakes are just as important as their successes.
In terms of trouble spots, I only had one major problem throughout the story. Most authors give you sufficient character description to bring a person to life without being too explicit. Rowell didn’t give me enough physical description, or rather she gave me conflicting descriptions. One character would describe him/herself and it would be laden with their own insecurities. Then the character would be described by another as really attractive. While this duel expression is likely honest to how we see ourselves, it threw me off. I struggled through most of the book to get a firm image of Beth and Lincoln in my mind. Obviously I got through the book just fine, but this one little snag drove me nuts.
At the end of the day, Attachments is fluff. If it were food it would be meringue: melt in your mouth sweet. It’s not enough to fill you up, but you’re glad you ate it. This is Rowell’s first novel, so I’d like to see how she has developed her style since Attachments‘ publication. Her other titles include Eleanor and Park and Fangirl. I’d expect them to be equally engaging.