Monday, January 15, 2007
Far Better Than I Expected
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan had a lot going against it as far as I'm concerned.
1. It's a love story. As a general rule, I don't find a will-the-boy-meet-girl (or girl-meet-boy) story line particularly compelling. Perhaps it's too universal an experience for me. It seems so...mundane.
2. In the first chapter it became obvious really fast that this is another rock book. I don't dislike rock. But I am a pop rock, FM radio, VH-1 videos-on-the-treadmill type. I'm shallow, okay? And I'd already read two 2006 rock books and thought that was quite enough.
Has no one else noticed all these YA rock books coming together? Are we talking a genre here?
3. Nick and Norah contains scenes in which characters pour out their souls to people they barely know. I find this very unrealistic. On the few occasions it's happened to me, I've been totally freaked out.
4. Nick and Norah, themselves, occasionally break into cute, Gilmore Girlish dialogue. Ick. (I am the only person in the eastern part of the United States who doesn't like The Gilmore Girls. Perhaps you've heard of me?)
5. Norah has all these rock connections through one of her parents, which opens doors for her. And one of her problems is resolved though a daddy ex machina device. I know there are people like this out there, but still.
I mention all this to underscore Cohn's and Levithan's achievement. Because I did like this book.
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is intense. It's about a moment. It's about one night, the kind of night everyone wants to experience and wants to have experienced. Are Nick and Norah in love? Are they in lust? If lust is this great, is it all that bad?
This older, cynical reader has her doubts about whether this is a romance that will last for life. The authors let slip that Nick and Nora have some very big differences in family background and, sad to say, in real life those things matter. But they will definitely always have this night.
In many ways the characters in Nick and Norah are the kids from the girls-gone-bad books. They are older, affluent (most of them) teenagers with no one controlling them. They are free to do what they want. But the major players are sympathetic people. An argument could probably be made that a number of gay secondary characters seem pretty one note, but the character filling the role of teen bitch queen has some surprises in store for readers--and she does it without a posse.
Finally, this is by far the best of the rock books I've read these past six months. Nick and Norah makes you understand what it is about rock that is so very attractive.
I have one regret about reading this book. I wish I could have committed hours to reading it in one day, the way I was reading last month. The book is about an experience, and having to put it aside to deal with work and daily life cuts into the reader's share in that experience.