Rainbow Rowell has a very special place in my heart since the summer before having my daughter. I read Eleanor & Park and smiled like a dork the whole way through and cried at the very end like the emotional baby cooker I was. Then came Fangirl and it made me cry even more because being a twenty-something fangirl amongst a gaggle of friends who’re shedding their “teenage” identity for a boring old person with 401k and bullshit and like, mortgage or something, is just hard. But with all that said, I read the YA books with no shame and a love for her as a writer and a person. Have you seen her twitter? All pure gold!
But YA has a bad rep, always has. Most people think it’s solely for children and young adults finding their way in the world while others who are well into their 40s are diving into books like The Hunger Games, Divergent, everything John Green does that’s becoming a movie, and even Twilight (you remember that wave, we all do). And to step out of that light, Rainbow Rowell stepped out of her usual and Landline happened. It happened and … it didn’t happen well, that’s for sure.
Landline is a story about a woman named Georgie McCool (yep) who is a writer for a television series that she doesn’t fully enjoy and sorta going through something with her marriage with her husband, Neal. When an opportunity of a lifetime comes for her and her longtime best friend, Scott, where they have the chance to write for their own show but must have it done by Christmas, it keeps her from going to her husband’s hometown of Omaha with him and their kids. It’s their first Christmas apart since college. The night of Neal leaving, she begins to wonder if, again, her relationship is ruined with him. It eats away at her and she starts to unravel a bit when she’s unable to talk to Neal after he arrives and the days following. Georgie also begins to become stressed about writing for the show since she and Scott begin to have trouble writing due to her distractions and stresses. So, in the midst of her stressing about her job and marriage, her husband neglects to answer the phone, as only her daughters answer, only leaving her more frazzled than before and honestly she becomes a mess and starts wearing the same bra and underwear for a few days. During the time of her husband being away, Georgie stays at her mother’s house without her phone charger wall adapter and has to use the house phone. When she plugs in her old yellow corded phone into the wall of her old room, by some magical chance, she ends up talking to a younger version of her beloved Neal at some point in time where they broke up before and before they were married. This event and time in which she is speaking to him is the one time they broke up and he went home for Christmas without her but when he returned, he proposed. All of this leads to the true question she is forced to ask hersef: should she or should she not talk him out of proposing to her?
There’s more but I feel like I’m not even interested enough to get into it.
Where do I even begin?
What is and could be a cute capturing story about the thick and stable foundation of marriage and love is a b-movie romcom in a book and a YA story that I would’ve avoided completely if it had been categorized as such. It’s cute in some ways, like how she describes Neal in his younger years. He’s stoic, hard to love by women who like their men a little more lively but as a woman who is drawn to the asshole alpha male (sue me) and the guy who doesn’t smile unless he actually really likes you, that was the only key in the story that I found to be lovely for me. The humor was nice, sometimes not my favorite but it was alright.
The problem that I had with the novel was that there wasn’t much in it that challenged the idea of marriage or relationships other than the fact that Neal was unhappy with having to live in Los Angeles for the sake of his wife and her career. He was a full time father hanging up his career coat to care for the children while Mrs. McCool was the breadwinner. But that wasn’t what disrupted their marriage. Quite frankly, I never quite learned what their problem was. She worked too much but wouldn’t change and he was content with his life but their was an underlying issue that wasn’t particularly resolved, or addressed.
Also, Georgie believed she was too busy and was never home, but you don’t quite get an understanding of how she was going to make it work on her end or how it had worked for so long. There was no sense of compromise on her end, either, even if he hadn’t ask for anything from her.
My last relationship lasted for two, almost three, years. What I learned in those two years with living together, paying bills, and having a baby is that there are things that have to be compromised even if it’s not verbally asked of you. There wasn’t much for me to give up but when you feel guilty about not doing enough, sometimes you probably aren’t and maybe there’s something you have to give up or cut back on for the person you love. Now, it was no marriage but there is still the same fundamentals in every relationship. Not only did Georgie ultimately not do any of that but she never really spoke to her husband about her insecurities and what she could change. There was a talk when she was pregnant but after that, nothing. As if one argument whilst pregnant is enough to make you believe you’re in the clear for good (spoiler: you’re not, it’s usually the hormones talking anyway).
Then came the longtime male best friend, Scott, who was always quite the playboy who, after years of watching her pine for him before then moving on to another man that she eventually married, finally admitted he loved her, that he had always loved her. And it actually upset me. To me, it’s always upsetting to pin a woman in a highly unnecessary love triangle. Quite frankly, it’s even more upsetting to have that stereotype of males and females never being able to be friends because romantic feelings would get involves and be the end of them. What added the insult to injury were the many chapters that show Scott passively make her choose between him and their show or Neal and her children (while Neal never ever asked that of her). It was annoying because it wasn’t a friendship being seen but the passive aggressive nature of a man who loved a woman and missed his chance and then selfishly wanted him all to herself. It’s cheap. Cheap and outdated and overdone.
I didn’t hate the book, but there were too many annoyances to fully enjoy it as I did her other works.
At a bigger standpoint, the writing was just as a YA book would be and didn’t show the step from reaching to young adults to reaching to real adults. The tone was the one of your coolest aunt telling you a story and trying to keep it as PG-13 as possible and it instantly made me gain my grumpy old lady feel of hating teenagers and thinking of them all to be whiny. Rainbow is a wonderful writer and while this step out of her comfort zone is respected, it could’ve been better. I didn’t have an issue of her overuse of parenthesis but it was the too … tame. And the magic of the whole plot didn’t really make me feel like an adult learning something about relationships or marriage. Actually, I learned nothing from this book.
The ending was cute, pleasant in it’s own small way but as any romcom gesture it was expected. Christmas miracle and cookies and kisses and snow after hearing about how it never snows when Georgie is there and that’s why Neal calls her sunshine. John Hughes would be proud; however, Jade Ivy is not. And maybe that’s something else this was, ode to the 80s and John Hughes films that we as a generation of outcasts will never forget, but it wasn’t.
There are more characterizations that I’d love to pick apart. One being Georgie and her lack of control on her life the moment her husband leaves and how she’s frazzled to the core so much so that she doesn’t even try to keep up with fresh underwear anymore. I don’t even recall her brushing her teeth because of her worry about her marriage being over. Honestly, it was just exhausting after a while. I related for only so long and then it made me question how much of her own person was she besides work and kids and Neal. Functioning without him for merely a day was too much to handle and it worried me deepyl. Georgie, my love, take a bath and a bask in the silence. Watch X-Files on Netflix and take up the whole bed for once. I had some annoyance with Scott but the way you think of the polo shirt collared pop kid who can sleep with any girl he wants and falls in love with his little awkward best friend, that’s exactly who Scott is. And insulting.
Overall, I won’t be dying to read this book again some years down the road. It’s a story I may not remember too well after some time but in a way, it was fun for the story it told. Have you read it? Maybe you can shed a little insight onto me.