Synopsis: “Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you…”
Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.
Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now- reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.
When Lincoln comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can’t help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.
By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late to introduce himself.
What would he say . . . ?
Goddamn, that synopsis does not need to be half as long as it is. I can do it in under ten words: “Nice IT creep falls in love via email creeping.”
Anyway, I’m genuinely sad right now. I wish I was made up of enough faith and romanticism and cotton candy and rainbows to buy into this book, or at least suspend my own version of reality for long enough to enjoy it fully. But alas, I’m a cynic with a 3.1 average rating. Swoony romance is just not how I roll.
You have to concede to some big-ass, brand-name concepts if you wanna enjoy this book. Chief among them? True love and love at first sight. The Big Two, as I call them.
But we’ll get there. That doesn’t really come into play until the end. And before that, we get hundreds of pages of fun with some great characters!
Wow. Warning sign to self: when genuine enthusiasm sounds sarcastic, you may need to check your pessimism. Yikes.
So: the year is 1999. We follow Lincoln, a guy in his late twenties whose appearance is described as a mid-twentieth-century interpretation of the Hulk with Jason Bateman’s face. No, that’s not a joke. I wish I was funny enough to make that up.
Anyway, at the beginning of the book, Lincoln is still in love with his high school girlfriend, lives with his mom, has no social encounters but for Dungeons & Dragons games, and works nights reading people’s emails at a newspaper. But, as Justin points out, my boy Linc is still hot enough to inspire obsession in the hearts of no small number of coworkers.
Lincoln’s life is pretty boring, but I didn’t mind, most of the time. He’s pretty funny and smart and shy and nice – all around adorkable. A real Zooey Deschanel. (Just kidding, he’s not a manic pixie dream boy…oh my god wait is he a manic pixie dream boy?! He does enjoy profound conversations about modern romance with strangers at bars and sheet sets with violets on them for the prettiness of it…)
F*ck, I can’t like ANYTHING! I need to stop thinking about this. Let’s talk about Beth.
Beth doesn’t really understand how emailing on a business account works, and thus sends a metric sh*t ton of personal emails back and forth with her BFF Jennifer. They, like, always contain cursing or ~sex lingo~ or something, so her emails always get flagged. And guess where they end up?
You got it.
With OUR BOY LINCOLN.
(Living to forget my previous Lincoln realization!!! Manic pixie dream? More like manic pixie nightmare!) (Oh, wow, you guys, I just got word. I’m officially now the funniest person on Earth.)
Anyway, instead of sending Beth a warning message, or at least not reading her mail anymore, Lincoln keeps on keepin’ on (all up in that inbox). UNTIL HE FALLS IN LOVE WITH BETH!!!! Can you believe it? Gives me the heebie-jeebies.
Well, not until. He keeps reading them. Keeps on lovin’ from afar. Creepily walking past her cubicle. Fixing her not-broken mouse. Attending her boyfriend’s concerts. Etc, etc. It’s all a mess, really.
But I’m getting ahead of myself! Beth is super cool. She’s really funny, and a great friend, and has what Lincoln refers to as a job straight out of a romantic comedy (ironic, no?): movie reviewer for a newspaper. Aw. It’s sad to think about the job of a current-day Beth being at risk, as newspapers continue to underperform.
That seriously wasn’t even funny. What the hell is wrong with me? I think I’m severely thrown off by my mixed feelings on this book.
Okay. Here’s the deal. Lincoln knows everything about Beth. How she met her boyfriend, what their life together is like, her interests, her job, her family members’ names, plus everything about her best friend Jennifer. ALL BETH KNOWS ABOUT LINCOLN IS HIS APPEARANCE!!! And, later on, the fact that he’s been reading her emails and grossly invading her privacy for months.
But this doesn’t stop Beth’s reaction to seeing Lincoln again being a full-on makeout session in a movie theater.
Again, Lincoln knows so much about Beth, an impossible amount, enough to lead to this lovely quote:
“He knew why he wanted to kiss her. Because she was beautiful. And before that, because she was kind. And before that, because she was smart and funny. Because she was exactly the right kind of smart and funny. Because he could imagine taking a long trip with her without ever getting bored. Because whenever he saw something new and interesting, or new and ridiculous, he always wondered what she’d have to say about it–how many stars she’d give it and why.”
And I love that quote, I really do. I went so far as to grant it a coveted spot on my Goodreads quotes list. It seems like every strong relationship should be like that, even the platonic ones – excluding the kissing part.
So essentially, what you have to buy into here – what Rainbow Rowell has Beth ask you to buy into – is that Beth’s love for Lincoln (“love at first sight”) is equal to Lincoln’s love for Beth (“love before first sight”). Or at least allow for them to be on the same playing field. (Did I sport talk right?)
But I’m not into it. See, Lincoln’s love for Beth blossoms like the world’s creepiest flower, but it’s PURE AS ALL GET OUT. It’s entirely based upon her personality. He’s never seen the gal! Hers is all, “I saw a cute guy at work and now I’m obsessed with him and I tried to follow him home.” NOT. THE. SAME.
The ending was just bananas gushy and mushy and cheesy and excessive. I cringed really hard throughout it (excluding the lovely quote above, which stood out like a Mindy Kaling book in a sea of John Green). (This is a new expression I’m trying to popularize instead of “diamond in the rough.”)
On top of that, there were traces of general women hating and a bit of slut shaming in here, which sucked. Rainbow Rowell tends to be woke as hell, so that was a disappointment.
Bottom line: I didn’t hate this book. There were some parts I hated, yes, but also some parts I liked a lot. So I don’t not recommend it. (But I am going to go cry for 2 hours about dropping a 5 star down to 2.5.)