Title: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.
Author: Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.
Genre: Fiction, YA, teen, romance, music.
Publication Date: 2006.
Summary: Nick's just seen the girl who dumped him walk in... with a new guy. What else can he do but ask the strange girl next to him to be his new girlfriend for the next five minutes? Norah would do anything to avoid conversation with the not not-friend girl who dumped Nick... and to get over the Evil Ex whom Norah never really totally dumped. What else can she do but answer Nick's question by making out with him? With one electric, unexpected kiss, the five-minute couple of Nick and Norah set off on an uncharted adventure called the "first date" that will turn into an infinite night of falling in and out (and in and out, and maybe in and maybe out) of love. Theirs is a first date of music, laughter, heartache, confusion, passion, taxi driver wisdom, and a jacket named Salvatore. And of course a killer soundtrack. As Nick and Norah wander through the middle-of-the-night mystic maze of Manhattan, they share the kind of night you want to never end, where every minute counts and every moment flickers between love and disaster.
My rating: 7.5/10.
My review: I realized something while I was reading this book which I haven't before (mainly, I think, because I read very little of this genre) - while children's lit is timeless, teen lit decidedly is not. I found myself constantly reeling in my judgements because it sounded so epic and over-dramatic it was like reading a Backstreet Boys song, and I had to constantly remind myself that this is in fact the way teens think, and talk - this is the way I had thought and talked when I was that age. So after finally fishing a teenage-Margot out of the back of my memory, this book went pretty smoothly. I enjoyed the hectic, fast pace, and eventually the frank and conversational language grew on me as well. Though I was a little abrased© by the language at first (lit that liberally sprinkles the word "fuck" anywhere it could plausibly fit is not usually my cup of tea), it quickly became apparent that when you have 2 17-year-old narrators in today's world, a different kind of language may not have been as realistic. I liked what a huge part music played in the book - you could tell the narrators really connected to what it's like to understand, love, and live music. The way both the main characters' passion for music was interwoven with their passion for each other was incredibly skillfully done. And even though I don't usually enjoy sappy teen romances, don't believe in love at first sight or dating complete strangers because they "seem cool" in a limited time-frame, overall I thought that the message of this book is a great one for its teen target audience. Get over your damage (and yourself), follow your passions, take a risk, go for it. I have two major criticisms for this book: The first one is actually a really common one for me for a book of this format - it is near impossible to have a co-written book where both the authors are equally strong and talented. This was definitely the case for this book. David Levithan is a very strong writer - his descriptions and way of putting things are incredibly compelling. Rachel Cohn is average at best, and she seems even more so when put side-by-side with a significantly stronger writer. I would have infinitely preferred if the entire book was written from Nick's point of view. The second one was the handling of homosexuality in this novel. It was clear that the authors really wanted to make that a huge point in the book, but the fact that it was just too much was too evident by the fact that it really didn't have anything to do with the plot. Ever. I don't believe that in order to seamlessly handle homosexuality in teen fiction (which, I will admit, is an important thing in today's world) you have to make more than half of all the characters you introduce gay, who spend a large amount of time reminding the reader (and the main character) that they are gay. Also the pseudo-lesbian scene in the bathroom was infuriatingly tasteless. It felt like some kind of odd adolescent-wet-dream-fan-service. The fact that two girls who have a very strained relationship would decide, in the middle of a tense confrontation and tense situation (not to mention two girls that have a guy in common) to make out in the bathroom so one of them could teach the other how to really kiss? No (although another good example of how Rachel Cohn is not a very strong writer - this is as cheap and as transparent a tactic as girls who actually make out with each other in bars because they want to attract guys' attention).
♥ The day begins at the middle of the night. I am not paying attention to anything but the bass in my hand, the noise in my ears. Dev is screaming, Thom is flailing, and I am the clockwork, I am the one who takes this thing called music and lines it up with this thing called time. I am the ticking, I am the pulsing, I am underneath every part of this moment. We don't have a drummer. Dev has thrown off his shirt and Thom is careening into feedback and I am behind them, I am the generator. I am listening and I am not listening because what I'm playing isn't something I'm thinking about, it's something I'm feeling all over. All eyes are on us. Or at least that's what I can imagine in my stageblindness. It's a small room and we're a big noise and I am the nonqueer bassist in a queercore band who is filling the room with undertone as Dev sing-screams, Fuck the Man / Fuck the Man / I really want to / Fuck the Man. I am punctuating and I am puncturing and I am punching the air with my body as my fingers press hard into the chords. Sweat, malice, and hunger pour from me. This is release, or maybe it's just a plea for release. Dev is wailing now and Thom is crashing and even though my feet don't move I am traveling hard. I look past the light and see people shaking, people jumping around, people watching as Dev takes the microphone into his mouth and keeps yelling the words. I throw the chords at them, I drench them in the soundwaves, I am making time so loud that they have to hear it. I am stronger than words and I am bigger than the box I'm in, and then I see her in the crowd and I fall apart.
♥ And then she'd said, No, I'm tired of you, and I slipped into the surreal-but-true universe where we were over and I wasn't over it. She was no longer any kind of here that I could get to.
♥ And with that, Tris leaves me for good. Every time I see her, from now until I die, she will leave me for good. Over and over and over again.
♥ I splash some cold water on my face at the bathroom sink and take a deep breath. Time to go back out there and make this right. I am brand-new. I can change. Only not for Tal. For me.
♥ "So what do you have to confess now?"
I don't know why I'm saying any of this, except that it's the truth.
"I'm confessing that I don't know if I'm ready for this."
"What is 'this'?"
Being open. Being hurt. Liking. Not being liked. Seeing the flicker on. Seeing the flicker off. Leaping. Falling. Crashing.
"Norah. I don't know if I'm ready for Norah."
Tony/Toni/Toné smiles, her teeth the same white as her collar.
"There's no such thing as ready," she says. "There's only willing."
♥ Dev's elbow hits my back and I press forward and she's right there and I'm reaching out and she's right there and right at that moment the amps amplify and the music takes on such a pulse that it becomes my heartbeat and her heartbeat and I know it and she knows it and this is the point where we could break apart and that would be it, totally it. But I look into her eyes and she looks into my eyes and we recognize it—the excitement of being here, and the excitement of being now. And maybe I'm realizing what a part of it I am, because suddenly we're not crashing as much as we're combining. The chords swirling around us are becoming a tornado, tightening and tightening and tightening, and we are at the center of it, and we are at the center of each other. My wrist touches hers right at the point of our pulses, and I swear I can feel it. That thrum. We are moving to the music and at the same time we are a stillness. I am not losing myself in the barrage. I am finding her. And she is—yes, she is finding me. The crowd is pressing in on us and the bassline is revealing everything and we are two people who are part of a lot more people, and at the same time we're our own part. There isn't loneliness, only this intense twoliness.
♥ Lars L. launches straight into "Take Me Back, Bitch" and I flinch and Norah sees it and I have no way of saying it's not her, it's not now, it's the ten thousand thens that she has nothing to do with. I lean in and kiss her again, the same way that you run to your room and blast the music when your parents start shouting. I know it won't work and it doesn't work because some things you don't need to hear in order to hear. The mind has an ear of its own and sometimes memory is the fiercest fucking DJ alive.
♥ Her hand finds my hand and immediately I'm being led away. We are piercing through the rumbling tumbling crowd and our arms are like the most precarious bridge, held together by that single, pulling clasp. I think, If she lets go, it's all over. If I let go, it's all over. And because she is holding on so tight, I hold on so tight. I am being jostled from all sides—I know there will be bruises tomorrow—but somehow this hand-hold is immune. Somehow we stay together. We are graced, and we are together, and the twoliness is trumping the loneliness and the doubt and the fear. We are making it through. Thank you, music. Damn you, memories. Thank you, present.
♥ My pride shut me up, my hurt shut me down, and together they ganged up on my hope and let her get away.
♥ Why do we even bother? Why do we make ourselves so open to such easy damage? Is it all loneliness? Is it all fear? Or is it just to experience those narcotic moments of belonging with someone else?
♥ When someone breaks up with you, their beauty—which you took such satisfaction in—suddenly becomes unfair.
♥ "Let me give you some free advice. She's a runner for sure—she'll run away every time without saying a word. But here's the thing—you are not a runner. And deep down, I don't think Norah wants to run, either. She just feels like she has to. Partly because she's a tiresome spoiled-brat smartass with no fashion sense. And partly because she's a fucking human being."
♥ Life fails. Songs don't always.
♥ Dev takes his arm and puts it right against mine, skin to skin, sweat on sweat, touch on touch. Then he glides his hand into mine and intertwines our fingers.
"This," he says. "This is why The Beatles got it."
"I'm afraid I'm not following..."
"Other bands, it's about sex. Or pain. Or some fantasy. But The Beatles, they knew what they were doing. You know the reason The Beatles made it so big?"
"'I Wanna Hold Your Hand.' First single. Fucking brilliant. Perhaps the most fucking brilliant song ever written. Because they nailed it. That's what everyone wants. Not 24-7 hot wet sex. Not a marriage that lasts a hundred years. Not a Porsche or a blow job or a million-dollar crib. No. They wanna hold your hand. They have such a feeling that they can't hide. Every single successful love song of the past fifty years can be traced back to 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand.' And every single successful love story has those unbearable and unbearably exciting moments of hand-holding. Trust me. I've thought a lot about this."
♥ "Where do we come up with this shit?" I ask. "I mean, where do these words all come from? I sit here on this sidewalk and they just appear to me."
"Maybe they're always there and you just need to live enough life to get them to make sense," Dev says.
♥ There is a silence, and in that silence I hate all boys, for never knowing the right thing to say.
♥ While they're in the bathroom together, I try to distract myself by coming up with a list of things that could be worse than having your vehement ex drag your current she's-so-frickin'-cool girl away for some cubicle camaraderie (or conflict). I come up with the following:
- Having your pubic hair trimmed with garden shears.
- Having your pubic hair trimmed with garden shears by a frat guy who's had twelve shots of Jägermeister.
- Having your pubic hair trimmed with garden shears by a frat guy who's had twelve shots of Jägermeister during an 8.6 earthquake.
- Having your pubic hair trimmed with garden shears by a frat guy who's had twelve shots of Jägermeister during an 8.6 earthquake with lite jazz playing.
♥ The way you're singing in your sleep
The way you look before you leap
The strange illusions that you keep
You don't know
But I'm noticing
The way your touch turns into arcs
The way you slide into the dark
The beating of my open heart
You don't know
But I'm noticing.
♥ And I find myself saying, "It wasn't really about her." And finding it true.
"What do you mean?"
"It was about the feeling, you know? She caused it in me, but it wasn't about her. It was about my reaction, what I wanted to feel and then convinced myself that I felt, because I wanted it that bad. That illusion. It was love because I created it as love."
♥ "I mean, I don't know how the world broke. And I don't know if there's a God who can help us fix it. But the fact that the world is broken—I absolutely believe that. Just look around us. Every minute—every single second—there are a million things you could be thinking about. A million things you could be worrying about. Our world—don't you just feel we're becoming more and more fragmented? I used to think that when I got older, the world would make so much more sense. But you know what? The older I get, the more confusing it is to me. The more complicated it is. Harder. You'd think we're getting better at it. But there's just more and more chaos. The pieces—they're everywhere. And nobody knows what to do about it. I find myself grasping, Nick. You know that feeling? That feeling when you just want the right thing to fall into the right place, not only because it's right, but because it will mean that such a thing is still possible? I want to believe in that."
...."Maybe we're the pieces," I say.
Norah's head doesn't move from my arm. "What?" she asks. I can tell from her voice that her eyes are still closed.
"Maybe that's it," I say gently. "With what you were talking about before. The world being broken. Maybe it isn't that we're supposed to find the pieces and put them back together. Maybe we're the pieces."
She doesn't reply, but I can tell she's listening carefully. I feel like I'm understanding something for the first time, even if I'm not entirely sure what it is yet.
"Maybe," I say, "what we're supposed to do is coming together. That's how we stop the breaking."
♥ I shouldn't want the song to end. I always think of each night as a song. Or each moment as a song. But now I'm seeing we don't live in a single song. We move from song to song, from lyric to lyric, from chord to chord. There is no ending here. It's an infinite playlist.
♥ My heart accelerates. I am in there here, in the now. I am so in the future. I am holding her and wanting and knowing and hoping all at once. We are the ones who take this thing called music and line it up with this thing called time. We are the ticking, we are the pulsing, we are underneath every part of this moment. And by making the moment our own, we are rendering it timeless. There is no audience. There are no instruments. There are only bodies and thoughts and murmurs and looks. It's the concert rush to end all concert rushes, because this is what matters. When the heart races, this is what it's racing toward.