Attachments is a very sweet book, as can be expected from Rainbow Rowell, whose books are basically like good 90s/00s romcoms in literary form. I loved the split narration styles and the setting in a time where the internet was new and exciting (and confusing). However, despite this being really cute, I did feel like the plot was quite slow and most of the action was concentrated in the last few chapters of the book.
The main character of this book is Lincoln. He still hasn’t recovered from his high school girlfriend dumping him in their first year of college, and since then, has spent a decade completing different degrees and unable to move on. He is trying though. In Attachments, he has just moved on with his mother and has a proper job for the first time. He works night shifts in IT at a newspaper, reading people’s emails to make sure they aren’t doing anything they shouldn’t do. It is doing this that he stumbles upon Jennifer and Beth, best friends who talk about their lives through email. Lincoln is swept up by their friendship, but soon realises that he is feeling much more than mere curiosity. How can he make nothing into something?
My favourite thing about this book was the different styles of narrating for the different characters. Lincoln’s stories are told in normal prose, but we read Beth and Jennifer’s story through their emails. I loved the chatty tone of their chapters, and I felt like Rowell really captured the humorous, sarcastic and gossip-y tone of best friends’ conversations. It was even more interesting when the characters started experiencing problems outside of work, and you could see that there were things not being shared over email and going on behind the scenes. It really added some mystery to the novel, as you are invested in this friendship and the characters but unable to see what else is happening. It was also really funny to see the girls talking about Lincoln over email, not knowing who he is and that he is reading their emails. The use of internet in this novel was really interesting, and even though this is set in 1999/2000 in an office where internet has just been provided to staff, I felt like the idea of feeling like you know someone because you’ve seen enough of them online, only to realise that in the real world you don’t know each other at all, is quite relatable even 20 years after the time the story is set.
The story is really, really cute for these reasons. You see two sets of characters only knowing each other from a distance, all thinking about each other, but unable to take the next step and make their relationship a real thing. However, it was quite slow. Beth and Lincoln don’t even meet each other until the end, and it felt like the story built up and culminated within a few pages, making the slow development of the entire rest of the book feel glaringly obvious. It wasn’t until the end of the book that I realised how little had actually happened, especially considering that the way the story ends didn’t actually relate to anything that had happened before, it felt like the ending was rushed.
I also felt like as the story began to come to its climax, the creepiness of the situation felt more and more creepy. While I do think that it is a reality in the 21st century that people do become interested in people from afar thanks to the internet, the fact that Lincoln was learning about Beth entirely through private emails and not through, say, social media, felt very intrusive to me. I don’t think it would have felt as odd to me if it had been social media ‘stalking’, but private emails between friends that Lincoln didn’t actually need to be reading because they weren’t discussing anything against the rules felt like it was just too much.
Overall, Attachments was a nice, sweet read. I wouldn’t say it made much of an impact or made me feel anything very strongly. The story was super slow, but I still enjoyed most of it. However, I felt like as I read more and more, Lincoln went from feeling like a bit of a nerd and a loner, which I can relate to, to feeling a bit like a peeping tom, which I felt more apprehensive about.