Review: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

The Blurb: “It all starts when Nick asks Norah to be his girlfriend for five minutes. He only needs five minutes to avoid his ex-girlfriend, who’s just walked in to his band’s show. With a new guy. And then, with one kiss, Nick and Norah are off on an adventure set against the backdrop of New York City—and smack in the middle of all the joy, anxiety, confusion, and excitement of a first date. This he said/she said romance told by YA stars Rachel Cohn and David Levithan is a sexy, funny roller coaster of a story about one date over one very long night, with two teenagers, both recovering from broken hearts, who are just trying to figure out who they want to be—and where the next great band is playing. Told in alternating chapters, teeming with music references, humor, angst, and endearing side characters, this is a love story you’ll wish were your very own. Working together for the first time, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have combined forces to create a book that is sure to grab readers of all ages and never let them go.”

The Review: Rachel Cohn and David Levithan capture the reality of teenage life in Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and focus on deep characters from a male and female perspective. Nick and Norah have interesting lives, and as the evening unfolds for them, their lives and choices unfold for the readers. I loved Norah’s independent power, and Nick’s softer self-deprecating side.

Personally, I enjoyed seeing teens at this level. Nick and Norah have already been sexually active, prior to the storyline. They had made choices about drugs and alcohol, and decided for themselves that there really isn’t anything interesting about them. So now what? Now that these traditional hurdles have been overcome, the authors show us a night that changes the lives of their characters, one that is emotionally charged with excitement, sexual tension, decisions, and emotional angst and healing. Nick and Norah have to apply their prior knowledge in new ways, get over their emotional baggage, and determine how to proceed with a new love interest. By providing the reader with both perspectives, Nick & Norah is an excellent read for older YA readers, and adults.

This book struggles with some parents, and in some classrooms and school libraries, because of the language component. Levithan peppers the sections from Nick’s point of view with so many explicatives that they virtually become meaningless. I tend to think that because they make good choices throughout the book, and appear to have made them in the past, that this makes up for the language issue. Nicholle has argued that trading one vice for another is still a vice. She may have a point, but in a market overpopulated by books featuring teens behaving badly, it is refreshing to see teens making good choices. Levithan's opinion? "Who the f&*$ cares if characters use the word f&*$?It harms no one."

So blah, blah, blah, movie. It was PG-13, and the language and “feel” of Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist definitely leans toward an “R”. Levithan’s narrative alone would have garnered an “R” rating. A great book for older YA readers was turned into a feel good movie for tweens. A movie that could have been like Superbad, Nick & Norah was turned into something akin to a grittier High School Musical.

Something Extra: Cohn and Levithan were interviewed in 2006 by blogger Little Willow. Their comments offer insight to the novel, and to attitudes about YA fiction in general. (Incidentally, they love the movie. Hmmmm.)

Bottom Line: A excellent read, and a great representation of life in the big city. These teens make good choices, applying their life experience for the better. Popular enough to turn into a film, and now just a piece of flotsam in the fantasy flooded YA market, this book will make you wonder why there aren’t more books out there like Nick & Norah.
Grade: B+