BBR: Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell

Oh, Rainbow.

Rainbow, Rainbow, Rainbow.

I think we need to talk about this whole “oh, btw, I’m a sneaky ninja genius who will, y’know, just write some books all casual-like and suddenly you’re hopelessly addicted to everything I produce and find yourself standing at the counter at the bookstore with one of my novels in-hand and no real memory of how you got there” thing that you’ve been up to lately.

I mean, I picked up Eleanor and Park because John Green recommended it and it was on sale (sorry), so it makes total sense how that one came to be in my home. But now I’m sitting here preparing to jot down my thoughts about Attachments, and Fangirl is sitting on the to-read shelf in the other room, and I’m not actually entirely sure how I got to this place. Is there something you’re sprinkling on the pages and just not telling us about? Have you become a master of subconscious programming via the use of invisible ink?

Whatever it is that you’re doing to us, please never stop. Ever. Because I love your books. Lovelovelove them with the passion of a thousand burning suns.


Attachments, aka the second stop in my apparent newfound quest to devour everything Rainbow Rowell ever writes including her grocery lists, is the story of Lincoln O’Neill, a fellow whose job title is “Internet security officer” for a newspaper but whose job description involves monitoring employees’ web usage–including, but by no means limited to, reading internal emails and issuing warnings to folks using the email system for personal communications. Which is how we meet Beth and Jennifer, two friends who work for the newspaper and who–as we all do (admit it)–send each other chatty emails throughout the day. Lincoln reads these emails, as is his duty…and finds them too interesting to issue a warning right away, a dereliction which is not his duty, and then it’s really become rather too late to issue a warning, which is really not his duty, and then he realizes he’s falling in love with Beth, which is most definitely not his duty.


There are some definite moral and ethical questions raised here–nowadays it’s just sooooo vogue to talk about privacy and spying and Quis custodiet ipsos custodes–and I’m certainly not discounting that. If you want to have a big conversation about these concerns with your book group, be my guest–in some ways, one could argue that starting these conversations is part of the point of the book. But I do think it’s interesting to note that by reading it, you’re kind of a tacit accomplice here; I mean, you read the emails in question. They’re part of the storyline. You participate actively in Lincoln’s transgression, and while it’s true that he’s fictional and it’s not like you can pick up the phone and suggest that he may wish to rethink his day, you do have the option of putting down the book and declaring that you’re not going to be party to this even in a fictional setting.

But–let’s be honest here–you probably won’t. I certainly didn’t. The book is hilarious, for one thing; and I liked Beth, liked getting to know Beth, liked rooting for Lincoln, liked watching his internal debate about where the line lives between “I think you’re interesting and would like to get to know you though as fair warning I’ve got a bit of a head start” and “I am a terrifying stalker and you should almost definitely call security”. (Lest you think I’m a terrible person, Lincoln is utterly, utterly harmless. I would trust him to housesit for me right now. So it’s not like we’re talking about Charles Mason, IT Specialist at large here.)

And then suddenly you’ll blink, and realize that you’ve laughed in all the right places–there are a lot of right places for laughing–and been hopeful in all the right places and cheered or booed or been sad in all the right places, and now you’ve turned the last page of the book. And you’ll close the back cover, hold it for a moment, open it up again to see if maybe there was more book back there that you just didn’t notice the first time, close it again, and find yourself two days later at the local bookstore with Fangirl or Eleanor and Park or Landline in your hands, wondering how you got there.

Heck, if you’re having that experience in the big city in the middle of nowhere, there’s a chance that I’ll be behind you in line, also holding a Rowell, playing a spirited game of “no, this Rowell book was the best one!” with the gal behind the counter.

Tell ya what, I’ll save you a spot in line.

TL;DR: Attachments is the ethically questionable story of an IT security officer who is tasked with reading intra-office emails and issuing warnings to people who use it for personal conversations; but he finds that he’s falling in love with one of the transgressors…so how exactly do you start that conversation? “Hi, I should be writing you up, but I’ve been spying on you and now I’m pretty sure I’m in love?” Hilarious, touching, hilarious again, periodically thought-provoking, and hilarious, this one is yet another in the pile of Rainbow Rowell treats. I tell ya, I think she must be lacing her pages with something spectacularly addictive.

Rating: 8.5/10 Muddy Hoofprints. Absolutely enjoyable, easy enough to chat about with pals; it almost definitely won’t revolutionize your world, and I live in terror of the possibility that it could someday get made into a movie with Steve Carell (please, god, not that. Seriously. I’m begging you here), but it’s certainly entertaining and a great way to pass a weekend.



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