Attachments (CBR5 #25)

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If you are a regular follower of reviews on the Cannonball blog you know that there are a group of dedicated Rainbow Rowell’s fans who are spreading the gospel of this author. I am happy to report that I now include myself in the group, although I may not be as rabid as some.

The story revolves around three characters, but I’d say the protagonist is Lincoln. Lincoln is 28, a multiple degree holder with a broken heart which remained unhealed more than 7 years after his first great love, and he is finding adulthood difficult to transition to. His journey into his adult self begins when he becomes employed at the local newspaper as their technology security person leading up to Y2K.

Lincoln’s main job is to check the security program which catches inappropriate emails. This is where we are introduced to the two other main characters, Jennifer and Beth. Best friends Jennifer, a copy editor, and Beth, an entertainment writer, treat their work email as a personal chat service (which I am EXTREMELY guilty of). Lincoln has to read the flagged emails and decide if the writers need to be sent a warning, he becomes so enthralled with Beth and Jennifer’s correspondence he never sends those warnings, and in fact becomes emotionally involved in their lives.

Much has been said about the creepy aspect of Lincoln’s job and how as a narrative device it could turn the reader off. I personally wasn’t, but that may be because I was thoroughly warned. Much of the action in the second two thirds of the book revolves around the steps Lincoln takes in his continuing journey into true independence and adulthood; meanwhile chronicling his growing attraction to the woman he is discovering Beth to be from her writings to Jennifer.

I actually started reading this novel during my summer malaise, and took about 6 weeks off between the first 100 pages and the rest of the book. This did shade my understanding of the book (for example I got very confused when Beth is describing her Cute Boy, I didn’t realize initially it was Lincoln), and my appreciation thereof, so my 4 star rating may turn into a 5 upon rereading. But for now Ms. Rowell has created an intriguing novel that is as engrossing as it is difficult to explain.

But what really sold me on this book was the characterization. I could not help but fall in love with each of our leads as they navigated their various life struggles. I don’t know the last time I read such honest character reactions to the various foibles and flaws demonstrated by Jennifer, Beth, and Lincoln. By the time we get to the end of the novel and everyone has finally made the choices they needed to make to more fully live their lives, you can’t help but be glad that you were along for the ride.

Someday, Someday, Maybe (CBR5 #24)

I was always going to like this book. I have been a Graham fan for nearly 15 years, which is half my life. My sister and I use Gilmore Girls as the basis for our understanding of our relationship to one another and I watch Parenthood religiously. I will also watch terrible movies that feature her (why won’t she stick to television?) and I love watching her as a guest on Craig Ferguson’s The Late Late Show and her guest star roles on Matthew Perry shows.

And I do like this book, but I really wish I loved it.

Someday, Someday, Maybe focuses on six months in the life of Franny Banks, aspiring actress in New York City. Franny has a given herself three years to ‘make it’ and she is entering her final six. We follow her as she navigates class, work, agents, auditions, bookings, and boys. Graham was herself an aspiring actress in New York in the early 90s and while I believe her claims that Franny is a fictional character based on some of her experiences, I couldn’t help but see Graham as the main character.

The things I enjoyed most about this book happen near the end, and not because of how the story resolves itself but more in that Franny and her roommate Dan get into a great discussion about the trappings of romantic subplots and what they mean to the larger storytelling going on. It’s a great conversation and one that I would love to join in on, particularly as relates to Love Octagons (because Love Triangles are so passé).

There really aren’t any beats that a seasoned reader  wouldn’t see telegraphed a mile away, but it’s a fun quick read that is very much in the voice of one of our favorite television actresses.

The Hunger Games (CBR5 #23)

After a two month drought I’m back with one of the most popular books from last year’s cannonball. I put out a plea to friends, loved ones, and tweeps for quick, easy reads to reinvigorate me after a summer of no luck. (I picked up and put down at least 4 books in the past few months and am fighting with another as we speak.) So, two of my colleagues who adore The Hunger Games set me up with the first book.

I read it in two marathon sessions over the course of a week. Drought broken.

The story by now is familiar to almost everyone, particularly with the movie out last year. In the future North America is now the country of Panem with a ruling Capital district and 12 other districts who, after an uprising that was quelled a generation ago, serve the capital. To be reminded of the sins of their forebears each year a Reaping is held and a girl and boy ages 12-18 are selected to fight to the death in the Hunger Games. One victor will be named and he or she will bring pride to their District and money to their family.  Our eyes to this world are Katniss’s. She’s 16 and an outsider. In order to survive following her father’s death in one of District 12’s coal mines Katniss sneaks out to the forest surrounding District 12 to hunt for her family. However, her normal life is thrown to the wind when her sister Prim, just 12, is selected at the Reaping and Katniss volunteers to go in her place.

We spend the second two thirds of the novel with Katniss in the training and actual games. It is at times a bleak read. We are talking about children killing other children. What I found most interesting in the transition to the movie (which I watched within 24 hours of finishing the book, thanks Netflix) is how they both sanitized some of the most horrendous deaths and also took away some of Katniss’ insights and turned them into physical promptings from her mentor, Haymitch. I felt it weakened the character. However, I did enjoy deploying the play by play analysts as our narrators throughout the Games.

But I think why this novel is resonating with non YA audiences is that it dives into some greater themes while leaving plenty of surface action for those who only care for the ‘who wins and how’ story lines. For instance Haymitch, a previous Victor of the Hunger Games who is now in charge of mentoring District 12’s two Tributes each year is depressed and has a serious drinking problem. We are also given a view into the cost of the Games to Katniss and the other combatants, an easy opening for discussions about Post Traumatic Stress.   There is also plenty to unpack in the dialogue between a Capital unable to support itself and instead focused on entertainment and diversion, surely a topic relevant to us today.