All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist – Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

on December 7, 2010

Nick is the only straight guy in a band of gay boys (well ok, there’s only 3 of them, but the other 2 guys are gay) named ‘The Fuck-Offs’. They’ve gone through several name changes with the singer Dev changing them regularly. They don’t have a drummer because Dev broke his heart but they get a few gigs. Nick is the bassist and he’s pining away for Tris, the girl that just dumped him and broke his heart. Mid-gig he spots her in the crowd with another man and is devastated. After the set, he sees her walking towards him, so he turns to a girl beside him in a flannel shirt and asks if she’d mind being his girlfriend for the next 5 minutes so that he doesn’t look like such a loser in front of Tris and so that she isn’t the only one who has moved on.

Norah is the daughter of a very influential and wealthy record label executive and she’s out at the gig looking after her drunk friend Caroline. Caroline needs looking after and Norah is usually only too happy to help. When the bassist from one of the bands leans in and asks if she’d pretend to be his girlfriend, Norah sees Tris, who she knows from school as a sort of ‘frenemy’ approaching from another direction and that makes her decision for her: she pulls the boy in and kisses him, not realising that this is Tris’ ex, just seeing an opportunity to get Tris off her back with her relentless taunts of Norah being frigid.

From there, Norah asks Nick after if he’d mind giving her and an inebriated Caroline a lift home and Nick agrees. However when his car won’t start, the third guy from The Fuck-Offs, Thom (with a H) rolls up with his boyfriend in tow, offers to take Caroline home and gives Norah 50 bucks to take Nick out on the town for the night to help him get over the bitch from hell ex-girlfriend, Tris, who they all loathed. Norah already at least knows something about Nick, as she’s heard the playlists he’s constructed for Tris, and the lyrics he’s composed about her. They have very similar tastes in music and so Norah takes the 50 bucks and her and Nick head into Manhattan. They go to a strip club where the dancers dress as nuns and where some amazingly new and brilliant punk band named Where’s Fluffy? are playing some secret gig. Randomly just about everyone turns up at that secret gig too: Tris and her new boyfriend, Dev, the singer of The Fuck-Offs, band members from the other bands that were playing the same night and venue as The Fuck-Offs, almost what appears to be the whole New York underground music scene. Nick and Norah have several disagreements, hook up several times, air some angst, split up, find each other again and spend one night together in New York that changes everything.

Okay. So this book is one of those hyped YA type things about being real and awesome and I’d heard so many good things about it that I was pretty eager to get hold of it. So I reserved it at the local library and discovered that it’s also on the Victorian Premier’s Reading Challenge which is a government initiative to get more kids reading where, depending on age, kids are challenged to read a certain number of books per year, including a set amount from the Victorian Premier’s Reading Challenge List. Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist is included in the list of books recommended for children in year’s 9&10 (14 and 15yo’s). I looked up the list and it’s very extensive – I don’t remember anything like that when I was in school and if there had’ve been, I certainly would’ve taken part. I went to school in another state and the emphasis on reading seemed to be all about the set texts, which were all very dated with little to no involvement of contemporary novels. And I think this novel would be a good choice for that age group and could draw fans of both sexes.

However, I didn’t particularly enjoy it as much as I thought I would. The point of view alternates per chapter, Nick followed by Norah and a lot of information is rehashed as you hear it from both points of view. This was a bit distracting and not something I enjoyed. Nick seemed like an interesting sort of character, and it was a fresh take on boys from YA fiction to have  him quite devastated over his break up with Tris and the one who was pining. Norah I found more difficult to like, she was prickly and uptight at times and then relaxed and open at other times and it was a confusing combination. I disliked the use of the word ‘frigid’ in this novel – it’s overused and mostly inaccurate. Norah thinks she’s frigid and is taunted as such but what she really is is uneducated and belittled by the boy/man she was involved with. Frigid is a common schoolyard taunt here, particularly in grades 7-10 where students are getting into their first relationships and any reluctance to immediately throw yourself headlong into a sexual affair leads to a lot of ‘frigid’ comments. It annoys me, and has always annoyed me and reading it in this novel was really no different. The gratuitous scene at the end with Tris and Norah to ‘prove’ that she is not frigid seems little more to me than a thinly veiled attempt to please male readers of this novel, even though that section was written by the female author (Cohn writes Norah’s chapters, Levithan write’s Nick’s).

It’s also paragraphs like this that turned me off:

I mean, there only the best punk band out there right now, named for the fucking apathy of a xenophobic fucking nation, oblivious to the fucking terror its leaders wreak on the rest of the world because they’re too busy worrying if their cat might be stuck up a tree. Where’s Fluffy can actually play, instead of wail like fucking pop-punk goof-offs. They sing everything right about everything wrong -they’ll come on pro-NRA, anti-chioce, homophobic – to remind listeners what’s worth fighting for. Where’s Fluffy are the real deal and if there’s anything between me and Nick, it will be determined when the show starts…..

What? I can’t tell if Norah is supposed to be serious or if she’s being tongue-in-cheek and mocking the sort of pretentious hardcore punk fan that always thinks the new band is the freshest, most original thing ever because they say some controversial things and trash a few hotel rooms and murder their wives and refuse to sell out to the man, until they do.

While the posturing like the paragraph above bothered me, what I did enjoy was the genuine chemistry between Nick and Norah. When they were really talking, I liked them. There’s a movie of this floating around that I would like to see and even though this book didn’t particularly do it for me, I’d like to read more of the two author’s efforts. There’s Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares and Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List and I’d like to give both of them ago and see if I like a story set away from this niche music scene, or if the author’s style of writing is just not for me. I seem to be in the minority with my opinion on this book as I’ve read mostly overwhelmingly positive reviews about it pretty much everywhere and very little in the way of negativity.


Book #107 of 2010

7 responses to “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist – Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

  1. Marg says:

    I am about to read this one because I have heard a lot about Dash and Lily and I wanted to read it so badly, but the library didn’t have it, so I requested this one instead.

    Will be interesting to see how I react to it. It certainly seems to have a lot of swearing!

    • I have Dash & Lily out of the library atm actually, lol. I think I was first to request it after it came through cataloguing. I just finished it today and (for me) it was 1000x better than Nick & Norah. Much less swearing, a more enjoyable plot, cuter characters. Even if you don’t enjoy N&N, still give D&L a go. I really liked it

  2. Marg says:

    Well hurry up and return it! I am next on the list! lol

  3. Marg says:

    Well that’s true. I can’t exactly borrow it at the moment!

    • You should just come around and grab it off me, lol. But I’ll definitely drop it back in to the library either Thurs or Fri morning so that gives you some time to decide which book is going to free up a space on your card!

  4. Tear says:

    I promise the movie is just as disappointing as the book. :/ I saw the film first and, since I loooove the Cyd Charisse trilogy by Rachel Cohn, decided to give this one a try, and was severely let down. I’m a teenager in high school, and while I do know people who think/speak like the aggravating characters in this book, they’re still considered aggravating by everyone not considered cool by them. Rachel Cohn kinda let me down…

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