December 29, 2009

Rabid Reads: "Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist" by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Title: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist
Authors: Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Published: Alfred A. Knopf ( May 2006); an imprint of Random House
Pages: 183
Genre: Young Adult
ISBN-10: 0-375-83531-8
ISBN-13: 978-0-375-83531-5

I've been waiting for weeks to watch the film adaptation of this book, as I'm apparently not the only library member who wants to borrow the DVD. When I made my request for the movie, I actually didn't know it was based on a book. So, while I wait to watch the movie, I thought I'd borrow the book. Surprise, surprise, there was no waiting list in that department.

Now that I've had a chance to read this title by Cohn and Levithan, two things spring to mind: 1) I'm really glad I took the time to read this novella (anything less than 250 pages is novella territory for me); 2) I have a feeling that I'm going to nitpick the movie when I eventually see it.

The story takes place in New York, and it doesn't take long to appreciate just how steeped the characters of Nick and Norah are in their slice of New York City life. Nick is the bassist, and lone straight guy, in a "queercore" punk band that seems to change its name with each gig they get. Norah is the broody, "straight-edge" daughter of a music executive, out on the town with her friend, Catherine, who isn't nearly as averse to alcohol.

It's Saturday night and both Nick and Norah are at a hole-in-the-wall club where their paths cross for the first time. Nick and his bandmates--sans drummer for some reason--have just finished their set, and Nick's handling bitch duties with the equipment while the other guys are basking in drunken adoration of both boys and girls. But, Nick's ex, Tris, is there too ... with her new boyfriend, and that's something he just can't handle yet. Norah is possibly one of the few sober people in the club that night, basically trying all she can to keep her friend, Catherine, from ending up in the broom closet with some random singer or guitarist. Plus, one of her former childhood friends, Tris, is there and that's something she can't quite handle at the moment. So, when Nick asks Norah out of the blue to pose as his girlfriend for five minutes to stick it to Tris, Norah accepts by locking face with him as Tris approaches.

That's only the beginning of the story for these two, as the story goes through their entire night together as they wind through Manhattan. Chapter by chapter, we switch points of view between Nick and Norah, as they go through a one-night emotional gauntlet. Cohn handles writing duties for Norah's character, while Levithan writes out Nick's experiences. It's an interesting tandem, to be sure, and the thought processes of both characters play well. There are moments when it can feel a little jarring jumping from Nick to Norah, or vice versa, but by the time you finish reading you feel a sense of completion and resolution to their respective stories.

The interplay between Nick and Norah was great and I really found myself rooting for the both of them, especially when they fucked up at different points through the night. The dialog is razor sharp between them as they get to know each other and gradually fall for each other in a way neither expected or initially wanted, yet nothing in the book feels contrived or tacked on. Well, there is one make out scene towards the end that is eyebrow raising to a point where I thought it was there more for shock value than anything.

Other than that, however, I felt so much more at home reading about Nick and Norah than watching just about any teen comedy that's come around in the last ten years. And that really makes me wonder how I'm going to eventually react to the film adaptation, because if it's been diverted from the story that this book tells, and given some glossy "teen romp" veneer that pollutes so many movies, I'm going to be sorely disappointed.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't read the book, but I thoroughly enjoyed the film. It didn't seem to have a 'teen comedy' veneer - I merely labeled it in my head as an indie film with sweetly believable and bizarre kids in the NY music scene. It was funny, but not so much that you felt laughs were being stuffed down your throat. I'll be looking forward to what you have to say about the movie. Just...enjoy!