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Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

Review

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

We anchor memories to music without even trying. Certain songs propel us out of the current moment to another time and place; sometimes for good, sometimes… not-so-good. But it's rare when we're conscious enough to pay attention and see each moment as a note, each event as a song, each connection with another person as a soundtrack. And if we're lucky, something --- or someone --- forces us to tune in and know when it's time to jam along with where the music is taking us.

In NICK & NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan introduce us to Nick O'Leary and Norah Silverberg, two teens whose lives revolve around music to such an extent that it becomes the compass that guides their direction. Nick, the straight bass player in a self-described queercore band, spots his most recent ex-girlfriend with a new guy and, in an effort to make her jealous, asks the first girl he sees to pretend to be with him for five minutes. Enter Norah, the straight-laced, ambiguously neurotic daughter of a music industry executive who is only too happy to join the charade (she knows Nick's ex and relishes the thought of her reaction when the ex sees Norah kissing Nick).

This simple "five-minute date" serves as the springboard that takes the couple around New York City on an intense Saturday all-nighter filled with exes, secret concerts, shared favorites, borscht, and an overriding (if also elusive) sense that Nick and Norah might actually be able to defy the odds and make a meaningful connection. The story hits all the right notes in capturing the first date experience --- the awkwardness of not wanting to come on too strong, the sense of urgency when perfect moments sync up and your conversation is a natural extension of your personality rather than a fusillade of "errrs" and "umms." There is discomfort in this recognition; there is also sympathy and relief in knowing that we are never weirder than anyone else.

The book is told from Nick's and Norah's alternating points of views (Levithan writing Nick's chapters, Cohn writing Norah's) in a way that allows for each to become a fully realized character while meshing seamlessly into a strong narrative. Each writer is at the top of their game, showcasing the writing hallmarks that have earned each praise in their individual careers. Levithan imbues Nick with introspection and optimism while Cohn crafts a Norah who juggles self-doubt and unyielding confidence with a precision rarely seen outside the circus. Just as Nick and Norah fall into a conversational rhythm that suggests they've known each other for years, Cohn and Levithan's natural propinquity shines through to make for an engrossing read. If the book has any shortcomings, it comes from what might be perceived as a lengthy denouement. But by that point, you're happily along for the ride and dying to see what comes of their on/off/whatever attraction to one another.

NICK & NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST lays down a beat that drives you from cover to cover and invites you to pay attention to the soundtrack that envelops your own life: it's the best way to tell who's there to sing back-up and who's up for a duet.

Reviewed by Brian Farrey on October 18, 2011

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

  • Publication Date: May 23, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0375835318
  • ISBN-13: 9780375835315