Saturday, December 02, 2006

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.

The Plot: Nick's band just finished playing their set in a NYC club when he sees his ex-girlfriend, Tris, with her new guy. Wanting to prove that he has also moved on (even tho he hasn't) he turns to the girl standing next to him and asks, "Will you be my girlfriend for the next five minutes?"

Norah, seeing the annoying groupie from school and wanting to do anything to avoid talking to her, say yes.

So begins the night that Nick and Norah meet.

The Good: Cohn and Levithan wrote this together, and the story is told by Nick and Norah in alternating chapters. I love that kind of stuff; like the moment when you realize that Nick's ex is Norah's annoying friend.

And I have one question for David: where is the real Nick? Cause he would so have been my book boyfriend when I was a teenager. (Tho, truthfully? Like Tris, I would have eventually found him a wee bit clingy and said good-bye.)

I love Nick, I love Norah, I love them individually and I love them together during this one magical night when they connect. I love the website that includes playlists and character blogs.

I love the music and the the punk scene. Nick is a musician; Norah, a music lover who is, how shall I put it? A wee bit snobby. She would despise me and my music taste in real life; she's one of those people to whom it's important to like a band before anyone else; and to stop liking them once other people do. It's not about the quality of the music; it's about being in the small, exclusive clique of music lovers. No doubt, Norah would disagree; but what works is that despite Norah's attitude, despite the fact that at any age I was never cool enough for these two and for their music clubs, I never feel excluded and somehow even feel included.

Take for example Tris, who in Norah's judgment is nothing more than a groupie. Norah sees no value in what groups Tris likes and doesn't like; Tris isn't as "real" as Norah is in her love of music. As the night unfolds, it turns out that Tris isn't the pure evil bitca it seemed she was at the start. One of the reasons this is great is the more evil Tris is, the more stupid Nick is for not seeing it. But, by making Tris real, Nick's love of her becomes understandable. Tris's break up with him becomes not the heartlessness he sees, but something he should have seen coming.

Did I mention the passion? Ah, the passion. The ice room.

There's also the matter of the cursing. As is true of many teens, Nick & Norah curse up a storm. I think the book would have been at least a third shorter if the F word were omitted. And the F word is used; no "Nick cursed" or "Norah said the F word." It's f*ck, f*ck, f*ck. Only with the us.
Is it realistic? Yep; I'm not going to disagree that kids use this word, use it frequently, particularly those who are leaving high school behind and somehow want to show their independence and not being children by using F for as noun, verb, adjective, adverb, gerund.... But, realistic or no, it does make it that much harder for a school library to have this in its collection and part of me wishes that Rachel and David (yeah, as if I were on first name basis) went with the whole "she cursed" instead of "she said F*ck" type of thing (much like part of me really, really hopes that Sex Kittens has a different title for the paperback, maybe S.K. and H.D. Fall In Love, because much as I adore that book and agree the title fits, I know that people aren't buying the book/ reading it because it has to be hand-sold to understandably leery parents.) While I respect the artistic choices of the writers, I also know the reality is it makes it that much harder for librarians and booksellers.

This is a great cross over book; this is one that I'd recommend to every twentysomething. Part of me wonders if it will work better with readers who aren't teens, because of the references to older films & TV shows like Heathers and My So Called Life. (Oh, and some of the references are things that they don't tell you; like, if you don't know it, you don't know it. They're not holding your hand; they don't tell you who Johnny Castle is.)

Hm, what else? I want the CD (just like I wanted CDs for Just Listen and King Dork.)

Wouldn't it be cool if two authors won the Printz?


Anonymous said...

This is my pick for the Printz...or an honor book at least.

Little Willow said...

I can't stand it when people judge books based on titles and/or covers.

Yes, SK&HDFIL is a fitting title to those who have read the book. It should be recommended to fans of Sixth Grade Secrets by Louis Sachar and other books of that fun nature for middle schoolers. Sadly, yes, those who haven't read the book have taken issue with the title. I doubt some of those judgmental persons would have challenged the book had it been entitled Kittens and Dawgs Fall in Love or even something like Girls and Boys or The (Love) Science Project.

Kate Brian had a title change which I thought went the opposite way: from the more subtle title The V Club (hardcover) to The Virginity Club (paperback).

Little Willow said...

See, I ranted so much about people judging titles before or without ever reading the book that I didn't say whatI think about N&N, which you probably already know:

This book rules.
They rule independently.
They rule together.

In four words:
The absolution of Nick.


Brian Farrey said...

Y'know, I also thought that Heathers and MSCL (the former more than the latter) might be "dated" references too. I made a Ferris Bueller reference in my manuscript and my writing group was convinced that today's teens wouldn't get it.

I dunno. Guess I gotta go find a teen who's read this and see if they've seen Heathers et al.

Liz B said...

I'm torn over the references because I know TV viewing & reruns can make things less dated; in high school I knew every Lucy show there was, but not because I saw it the first time around; and I also knew quite the number of movies from all decades, again from TV viewing. But part of that was because of less choice; 13 channels so less choice so some movies & TV shows which I ended up loving I'm sure I wouldnt' have watched with more options. With more choice, are todays teens watching the rerun of Heathers? BTW, this book inspired me to buy my own copy & I'll be happily watching this afternoon.

I know a few libraries who have done things like John Hughes film festivals for teens, but I think its more of an introduction than a "lets watch this old favorite."

Hhhmm.... I think I may have decided on a film series for my own library.....

Brian Farrey said...

You think this is Printz worthy? I mean, I liked it (it's my David; how could I not?) but I wonder about it's power to end up on the shortlist.

My predictions are that it'll come down to Book Thief and Octavian Nothing. In fact, I have a bet with someone at work over which of these two will win the Printz. My money's on Book Thief.

Totally unrelated: when you read BLACK TATTOO, tell me what you think of it. I'm VERY curious what a Buffy fan thinks.

Liz B said...

I haven't read The Black Tattoo yet (I have, however, read Monster Blood Tattoo so constantly think that I have read The Black Tattoo.)

I really enjoyed N&N, hence it's on my best list; and I particularly enjoyed the slowly unraveling of the story, and that there were things the narrators didn't themselves know. I particularly love the change in perception of Tris; and that Norah could almost be read as the "mean girl" in the relationship. I think N&N is a book that is easy to enjoy, so people think it's easy to write; but it's not (hence all the stinkers out there that attempt to be a fun romance and fail miserably.)

If it won a Printz honor, I'd be happy; but I think it's going to be either Octavian Nothing or Book Thief. I think N&N is almost too popular and too fun to be considered seriously as a "great book." I also think that N&N is more a 20something book (but, I also think Octavian and Book Thief are on the older edge of the YA spectrum.)

Anonymous said...

In reference to the people debating whether or not references are dated, I think they're seriously missing a key piece of the emo/punk culture, and that is that everyone tries to be retro and original. Punk was big in the early 90s, which was when MSCL was on, which is why I think they made that reference. Punk or Emo kids strive to find obscure TV shows and movies, and MSCL would fit that because it was cancelled when Norah was young, so now that she's older it would seem cool.
Also, a classic (maybe even a cult classic) like Heathers would definitely be on an emo/punk kids list of favorite movies because it's from before they were born/early youth and therefore obscure.
The references really do nothing but emphasize the subcultures the characters identify with, and help readers who belong to emo or punk labels to relate better to both Nick and Norah

Lissy For Sleep said...

i definitely agree with a lot of what you have to say about N&N's Infinite Playlist.
great, great book, though!
I loved it.
I loved reading what you thought about it. :)