Sunday, January 21, 2007


Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

This title was much-touted as one of the headlining titles from this past fall, one that no one should fail to recommend to teens with an interest in music. It has some good author cred, to be sure, co-written by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, the former being a pretty hot newish name and the latter being an established Big Name in teen lit. The premise sounded like it had potential: teens meet in club, Nick asking Norah to pose as his girlfriend for five minutes to throw off his ex, and they end of spending a whole amazing night together.

And I started reading. Turns out that the authors each wrote one voice, and they alternate chapters, often overlapping moments at the ends, so that the story is a shared one, told from both viewpoints. Okay, I've enjoyed that device before, like when Paula Danziger and Ann M. Martin teamed up for P.S. Longer Letter Later and Snail Mail No More.

The thing that makes this a real standout, though, is the voices. Wow. Sometimes in teen lit, it just doesn't ring true, doesn't sound like who it's supposed to be, but this first-person narrative was pitch-perfect. It's clear that the authors have at least passing familiarity with the punk scene they are using as background, throwing terms with the ease and correct usage of someone who knows what the hell they are talking about. (I seriously hate when grownups try to use slang and get it wrong. Talk about making yourself look out of touch and trying too hard. That gets respect from exactly nobody. Blech.) Being sort of interior monologues mixed with dialogue, I also like how the voices used really capture the emotional ups and downs that the characters ride as the night goes on. When it's all a big exciting swirling jumble of a moment, like when they are dancing or kissing, the words come in a rush all crushed together because oh-my-god, just-can't-think. It really works, and it drags you into feeling how they are without being manipulative, and it is so well done.

I didn't quite get what the jacket flap meant, to be honest, when it talked about them "falling in and out" of love during the night, but again, those ups and downs and stops and starts really pace the book nicely. Each has some ex baggage to deal with, Norah has some sexuality concerns (she's been called frigid before and wonders), and as they like each other more and more, neither wants to mess it up. Occasionally other people intervene, breaking up some tense moments, and it all makes for a nice suspenseful method of pulling you along. I kept not wanting to put the book down, because I wanted to see what came next, if they'd recover from this one, if they'd screw it up, if they'd end up together. And you're rooting for them, because you're getting to know them too and you see it's right and it's all such an urgent crush because it's this one night to see something start to happen or not. So yes, while it's crazily romantic in many ways, it keeps getting grounded again with real emotion, and it feels authentic, like you really are inside their hearts and minds.

It's all just captured so well, I am on the brink of writing a big gushy fan letter to the authors, I loved this so much. Seriously, rarely is there a book that I love so much I just eat it up with a spoon and can't put it down and am left seriously on the horns of a dilemma: Do I want more, or do I want them to just leave a good thing the hell alone for once? Argh, the agony!

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