What do you get when Rainbow Rowell invents magic yellow telephones?

A:  a really bad book

If you were to ask me to make a list of my ten favorite authors, Rainbow Rowell would most assuredly fall somewhere within that list given her fabulous showings in both Eleanor & Park as well as my personal favorite, Fangirl. Rowell's first novel, Attachments, was a contemporary romantic novel released to moderately good reviews in 2011. But her career really took off in 2013 when she found her writing groove in the Young Adult genre and published the two phenomenal best-sellers, Eleanor & Park and Fangirl. Clearly, Rowell had found where her true talents lie. Her ability to capture the essence of burgeoning teenage emotions marked her as a Young Adult author with a very bright future indeed.



Following the publication of Fangirl in the fall of 2013, readers eagerly anticipated the next Rowell novel slated for release in early July 2014. Oddly, Rowell decided to abandon her wild success in the Young Adult genre and return to writing adult contemporary romance. In Landline, Rowell introduces us to Georgie and Neal, college sweethearts now married for over a decade with two lovely young daughters. Georgie is the breadwinner of the family, or she is trying to be, working as a television scriptwriter while Neal is a stellar stay-at-home dad. It sounds like the idyllic life. Unfortunately, Neal is unhappy. And when Neal is unhappy, everyone is unhappy. He doesn't like Georgie's job. And he especially doesn't like that she still writes her television comedy scripts with her best friend and writing partner from college, Seth.

To make matters worse, Georgie and Seth have finally gotten their big Hollywood break: a chance to write their own show. This means they'll have to rush to put together their big idea and sell it....by working over the Christmas holidays. As it turns out, this is unacceptable to Neal, who takes their daughters to his parent's home in Omaha for the holidays and decides this is a good time to teach Georgie a lesson by not taking her calls.

The remainder of the novel involves a magic yellow rotary telephone and a lot of flashbacks as Georgie has an emotional breakdown over the petulant behavior of her husband and attempts to find the man she once loved by dredging him up from the past so she can love him once again. End of contemporary romance story.

Two stars. Skip it.



SPOILER VERSION - RATED R - YOU'VE BEEN WARNED (No, really....I'm pissed off here)



And this is the part where I tell you how I really felt about this book and why. Our two main characters, Georgie and Neal, had their same problems - all of them - prior to ever getting married. Neal didn't care for Georgie's job, her working relationship and friendship with her best friend Seth, the kind of socializing she was required to do for her job, etc. He resented her doing these things because he wanted her to himself 100% of the time. And yet Georgie still marries him. She thinks the power of her love can change him. People, this is NOT HEALTHY. And I'm disturbed that Rowell presents this as "true love." What the fuck?

Furthermore, the fact that Georgie's husband would take her children and threaten divorce because he is upset over her having to work one fucking holiday is completely out of line. And Rowell is presenting this as if Neal is being completely rational. Georgie isn't working the holiday because she wants to....she is doing it for a chance at writing her own show and finally making enough money for them to live decently in Los Angeles. Georgie's idea that he take the kids and go on to Omaha without her was kind, generous, and thoughtful of her. That he would turn it into an opportunity to emotionally blackmail and torture her by not answering his phone and spending his time with his ex-girlfriend is disgusting ---- this is a marriage worth saving? Really? Rowell writes this entire story-line as if Neal's behavior is completely rational. Threatening divorce when your spouse (the breadwinner of the family, I might add) has to work a holiday is RATIONAL? Moreover, Rowell presents the entire marriage as if Georgie, being the female partner, is logically the spouse who must make the changes and sacrifices to keep the male partner happy. Did I just step into a time machine? I understand Rowell is from the Midwest and loves those good, old-fashioned Midwest values....but this is fucked up.

I would submit that even though Rowell is writing this book for adults, she has garnered a huge teen following and millions will be reading this book regardless of official genre. So way to go, Rowell. You've just told millions of teen girls that the right thing to do is to give up everything you worked so hard for, your education, your career, for a petulant, lazy-assed man who demands you stay at home. That's an awesome message. Maybe that's the kind of message that still prevails in Omaha but here in the rest of the country we are actually working hard to raise our girls smarter, more independent, and even educated (I know, shocker, right?). So.... your message SUCKS. And so did your stupid magic yellow telephone. 

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Title: Landline
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Date: July 8, 2014
Pages: 320
Source: Review copy courtesy of publisher

23 comments:

  1. I enjoyed Eleanor & Park, but nothing about magic telephones seemed appealing to me, so I didn't seek this one out. Your spoiler review had me rolling. I'm going to be sharing it everywhere because I think it's ridiculously important that people look at it from that perspective.

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    1. I'm probably overly-upset here. But this really struck a chord with me for some reason. I thought my anger might ease over time, but it's been a good two months between reading the book and writing the review. Clearly, I didn't mellow here. Ugh. She owes more than this to the teenage girls who adore her books. And saying this is an adult genre novel is no excuse -- those girls aren't going to skip a Rowell book just because she labels it "adult contemporary romance." Hell --- even as an adult contemporary romance the message still sucks.

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  2. A huge fan of Eleanor and Park, this book really does seem to send the wrong message. I think I would most certainly annoy me.

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    1. I think some women it will irritate and some will be okay with the message, Diane. It all depends on our own personal limitations. Some of us, like you and I, just can not abide by this kind of message. No man is worth this kind of crap, lol.

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  3. So glad this wasn't just me! I love Rainbow Rowell, but this book worried me. I know we are meant to feel sorry for Neal, but without his voice he just seemed like a mentally abusive partner who Georgie felt willed to appease in fear of his rejection. Which, having read and adored Rowell's other books - that would have been far from her intention.

    Absolutely agree that the message of 'love heals all'/'true love' is not healthy. I wondered while reading if Rowell tried to change the gender roles by making her the breadwinner, but she did it without reversing and challenging the stereotypes women face. Why couldn't she be a mother and a career woman without men being bothered?

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    1. Mentally/emotionally abusive is an EXCELLENT description, Alice. Perfect, as a matter of fact. That is exactly what was going on there: Georgie was in an abusive relationship and ultimately she caved and went back to him, giving in to his demands. As I turned the last page, I just *knew* that really that wasn't the end of the story. Neal wasn't going to be happy....soon it would be some other thing he was unhappy with and demanding Georgie change to make him "happy" again. He was just a miserable person on the inside even before they married. Georgie knew this. And she married him anyway. The entire marriage was dysfunctional from the get-go. Blech. Rowell had a great opportunity --- she just didn't grab it.

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  4. I liked this one more than Fangirl. Although the plot was way out there, I felt that Georgie's avoidance over what was going on with her marriage was well done. Rowell nailed that angst and nervous energy that was Georgie.

    I actually thought that her family had died in an accident so I was very glad that that was not the case.

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    1. Hmmm, now that you mention the dead family, wow, good one. The book actually might have been better if that had been the case (not that I'd wish a dead family on anyone, but it would have made more sense to me than Georgie giving in to Neal's unreasonableness and trying to make an unhappy person happy, etc and so on). You should be writing books, Ti....you have good ideas.....(second time you've done this in a month...remember The Fever? Your ideas about it tying in with the anti-vacc debate would have made that a better novel, too.)

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  5. I didn't loathe this book as much as you did, but was completely annoyed with this bit of bad marriage behavior. Completely immature, and something that would not fly in our house. We don't ignore phone calls when things don't go our way, and we don't flounce off with ex-flings. However, it did have the easy Rainbow readability, and I loved all the side characters (except Seth, he was annoying and clingy as Neal). Definitely NOT her best effort.

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    1. Yes, I admit, you make a very good point that I really should have highlighted: excellent secondary characters. She writes characters well. I mean, even Neal --- I hated him, but he was written well enough for me to hate him, right? I don't think everyone is going to feel as strongly as I did about this book....not everyone has the same "issues" I do in this department. I'm hoping she goes back to YA and capturing what she does so well: teen characters and what they feel/go through.

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  6. I have not read her other books. Not sure if I ever will, but this book sounds like a travesty. Having just ended a marriage with a man that sounds a lot like Neal, I think it would make me really mad and I just might burn it. Did I just say that?

    Thanks for the honesty. Entertaining, as always!

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    1. Oh boy, yes....given your situation, you would hate this novel. You would despise Georgie and her choices because you are so much stronger than she is. Which, by the way, makes me so very proud of you!!! You have set such a good example of what a strong, independent woman can achieve when it is needful to do so. (Applause!)

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    2. Awww, thanks, Michele. :) I'm actually pretty proud of myself as well. And it's something I will never experience again...I can testify to that!

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  7. Maybe her magical yellow telephone transported her back to 1953, when everyone acted that way following WWII. Women who had been independent and working during the war all the sudden had to give up everything and return home to cook and clean and be breeding machines. Yep, fuck this book.

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  8. I loved all three of her earlier novels but you're making me think I shouldn't bother picking up this one. I feel the exact same way you do about marriage, about women AND men having to make sacrifices for one another, and about teaching girls to be independent, strong women. So I might skip it.

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    1. It might be good for you to read it and form an opinion, you know? Because it might be good for you to write a review...and I could be way off here!!! I always worry that I'm wrong about these things, lol.

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  9. *deep sigh* Thank you thank you thank you. I hated this book but hadn't written a review yet because I kept hearing such positive things about it. Thank you for letting me know I'm not crazy and that this is a wretched book.

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    1. It's heartening to know I'm not the only one - so thank you for leaving a comment. I've taken a little flak over at Amazon (but not too horrible)...I get why other people might see it differently, but I was horrified by the entire thing.

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    2. Consider the source at Amazon- and that's all I'll say. You've given me courage so my review will be up at the end of the month.

      We need to meet for a drink- somewhere we can set this book on fire.

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    3. That's a deal....maybe we should start a literary avant garde tradition in edgy Seattle....the monthly burning of a crappy book. I'll be we would get a feature in Huff Po. Gah...that's almost an insult, lol.

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  10. Seriously? Ugh. I really hate it when authors write something interesting that has a really GOOD message for young girls, and then they go an crap on it by writing something like this.

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    1. I'm not sure what to make of her, really. I thought E &P had such a good message? Maybe not...li should re-read I think.

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Fire away!