If you’re looking for something light and sugary to read this summer (or any other season for that matter) you should pick up either Attachments (1999) or Fangirl (2013) (preferably both). They’re just so damn sweet. To be clear, these books, as sweet as they are, have a certain gravity to them, making them a perfect blend of bitter and sweet.
These are romances. However, there are no blushing, innocent virgins and no tall, dark, mysterious, 29-year-old billionaire-multinational-CEOs here. These are regular people with regular stories. You and me, and that guy we had a serious crush on back in school. You know, the guy that was brainy and clumsy, and seemed like he liked you but had even less balls than you to do something about it?
These are situations we’ve been in. The dialogue is witty and hilarious, and you’ve surely had that discussions with your friend. This is us, trying to pry out of a rut we’ve been stuck in for years, but a rut we’ve grown so used to we think we like it. This is you, a student, convincing yourself you actually prefer books to people, and that it has nothing to do with the fact that you’re petrified to get out there and stop being socially awkward. It’s you and me, it’s Everyman and Everywoman.
So why should you read either of these books? After all, how can it be exciting reading about something you’ve experienced?
Well, Rainbow Rowell summarily executes willing suspension of disbelief by making you the protagonist of her books. She makes you feel like a hero, makes your life seem worthy of a book of its own. Because, most of us can find some portion of our lives, as small as it may be, that a little imagination and some wordplay can make into a good, maybe even a great book. And that’s what Rainbow tells you, what she reminds you of – your life is interesting, you have great friends, there is excitement behind that very corner, you just need to see it.
The overwhelming familiarity of it all gives you strength and fortifies your belief that anything is possible. Anything. You need a right set of circumstances, some guts to step out of your routine, and just wait for things to change, develop, and possibly turn absolutely beautiful.
Despite their similarities, Attachments and Fangirl are fairly different. Both deal with relatively new (at the time they were written) social changes which stem out of technological development. Fangirl is categorized as a YA novel, which I do not like, because YA makes me think of Twilight and Hunger Games, and Fangirl is nothing like those…things. It’s a story about a girl in college, in reluctant search for her place in the social order. Attachments deals with old people (30) who are stuck and are only realizing they haven’t really found themselves.
Obscure movie references are another thing these two books have in common, and you cannot help but feel like you have some kind of inside information, because there must be a whole bunch of people who didn’t get that “single-white-female” reference.
Even though Attachments should be more up my alley, and even though it’s a solid 4* book, I still preferred Fangirl (5*). Attachments is a fun read but at times it felt more like an exercise in writing than a complete work of fiction. It doesn’t lack closure, but it lacks a clear sense of direction, something Fangirl has in abundance.
I don’t usually copy quotes from books because for me that’s the equivalent of dismembering a body, but sometimes it’s hard to resist, so here’s a one from Fangirl:
He made everything look so easy… Even standing. You didn’t realize how much work everyone else put into holding themselves upright until you saw Levi leaning against a wall. He looked like he was leaning on something even when he wasn’t. He made standing look like vertical lying down.
And another from Attachments:
Have you ever seen The Goodbye Girl? Don’t watch it if you still want to enjoy romantic comedies. It makes every movie made starring Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock lash itself in shame. Also, don’t watch The Goodbye Girl if it would trouble you to find Richard Dreyfuss wildly attractive for the rest of your life, even when you see him in What About Bob? or Mr. Holland’s Opus.