Genres/Themes: romance, gal pals forever, never-met-you-but-i-love-you trope
Author: Rainbow Rowell
A refreshing take on sweet romance. The atypical narrative format works well, and the main character is amiable and charming. Though the story is not action packed (and may seem quite slow to start), it's a great one to spend a lazy afternoon reading.
Book Description (via Goodreads):
Beth and Jennifer know their company monitors their office e-mail. But the women still spend all day sending each other messages, gossiping about their coworkers at the newspaper and baring their personal lives like an open book. Jennifer tells Beth everything she can't seem to tell her husband about her anxieties over starting a family. And Beth tells Jennifer everything, period.
When Lincoln applied to be an Internet security officer, he hardly imagined he'd be sifting through other people's inboxes like some sort of electronic Peeping Tom. Lincoln is supposed to turn people in for misusing company e-mail, but he can't quite bring himself to crack down on Beth and Jennifer. He can't help but be entertained-and captivated- by their stories.
But by the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late for him to ever introduce himself. What would he say to her? "Hi, I'm the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you." After a series of close encounters and missed connections, Lincoln decides it's time to muster the courage to follow his heart . . . even if he can't see exactly where it's leading him.
Review (first posted at Book Lovers Inc):
No, he was just going to kiss her. He wasn't going to wait. She'd kiss him back. He was absolutely certain that she would kiss him back.Squee! How romantic-comedy is that, right? Just one of the many cute little snippets from Ranbow Rowell's debut novel. This story is slightly tough for me to classify, because it's not quite chick-lit / women's lit: the main character is a guy, and the story is ultimately about said guy's emotional growth and development. But neither is it lad-lit; the story also follows BFFs Beth and Jennifer through their respective man- and life situations. And it's far from a hot-and-heavy romance--the romantic leads have never met. Or seen each other. Or...talked to one another.
And then he'd tell her that he loved her.
And then he'd tell her his name.
But classification aside, this is just a smart, witty story. There's a lot of giggle-inducing banter, especially between characters Beth and Jen. The snappy dialogue and easy emotional connection to the characters was just a breath of fresh air. I didn't have to try to relate; I just did. I actually wish I knew Beth and Jen. Hell, I feel like I already do. The key is that the characters were rendered real; their insecurities, their fears, their simple joys and daily quirks. None of it was rendered larger than life and overly dramatic; it just was.
Now, it's important to note that the format used in a large portion of this book takes the form of emails between Beth--the smart film reviewer who feels her love life is in a rut--and Jennfier, the funny married friend who has her own relationship trepidations. Part of my curiosity with this book had to do with the atypical narrative vehicle--and I'm glad I took a chance with it, because it paid off. The format actually disappeared behind the very strong and believable connection between friends. I know that I've gushed and chatted with friends via email before; haven't you? ^_^ The email format was also well balanced with a traditional narrative structure, which follows only the protagonist, Lincoln.
Speaking of which...I know I haven't mentioned much about the protagonist yet, but he warrants his own bit of gushing, too. Lincoln, Lincoln, Lincoln. I love him. ^_^ Why? His character is instantly relatable, and he's so easy to root for. When he is giddy, I, as the reader, am too. When he is sad and wistful, so am I. He's a "regular guy"; no brooding heroic intensity, no hulk-like, insanely hawt looks (though he's supposedly an attractive guy). He's just a man trying to figure out his place in the world, trying to determine what he's good at and what's important to him. I dig that. Furthermore, I also bought into the fact that he fell for someone he'd never before spoken to. Sure, it's an unlikely situation, but the way that Rowell followed Lincoln's life and shared--with considerable focus--the personal struggles and personality traits that made very clear why he was a great match for Beth.
I think this story has broad appeal; anyone that likes life-and-love stories would dig it. And it's sweet enough to rival anything from Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. ^_^ Therefore, this book couldn't NOT have an HEA, and if you're the kind of person who loves those, you've found the right read. You pick a book like this up when you want to feel good; in this case, that satisfaction comes by way of some "laugh and cry" moments that always feel genuine. Rainbow Rowell's first novel is a book I'd definitely recommend--to you. ^_^
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
"I really liked it."