Saturday, February 10, 2007

Rachel Cohn & David Levithan, Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

A colleague recommended this book to me.

Said colleague mentioned that it's a book which has received many accolades since its publication last year, and it epitomizes what "young readers really look for in a good book."

Apparently, young readers must look for pseudo-hip dialogue that ridiculously drops the f-bomb like a comma; emotionally needy narrators who dwell on their insecurities and continuously wonder if they're homosexual; a storyline that takes place over the course of one night (James Joyce, anyone?) and is told through the alternate-chapter points-of-view of the two protagonists (William Faulkner, anyone?); and fiction that succeeds in doing little more than capture the ranting zietgeist prattlevoice of the typical adolescent boy and girl as it whines about music, parents, sex, substances, sex, insecurities, and sex.

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist tells of one night in the life of the title characters, two Manhattan high school seniors who have just emerged from failed relationships and come to meet at a performance of their favorite band. Complete strangers when they hook-up in an effort to make Nick's ex jealous, they begin a long night of conversations and meanderings through the streets of New York City, confronting their own obsessions, insecurities, and issues as their relationship develops.

It's an entertaining premise for a story, and the authors execute the storytelling in a back-and-forth manner which would seem clever and innovative to less erudite readers. If anything, each of the two narrators has a distinctive voice, and their musings are sprinkled with pop culture references galore, and enough obscenities to pass as a realistic slice-of-life of the average adolescent: Charles W. Chestnut capturing 2007 teen angst, if you will.

But "good" books do more than merely entertain you with a slice-of-life. They do more than offer what you already know. They teach. They inspire. They affirm. They challenge. One would hope that they make you a slightly ... oh so slightly ... "better" person by the end of the reading because they've taught ... or inspired ... or affirmed ... or challenged. And here is where Nick & Norah fails: it panders precisely to what young readers know already (and the more insecure ones will want vindicated), but it doesn't transcend beyond that. Even by the time the couple come to learn the Jewish concept of tikkan olam, it's too little too late.

Sadly, reading this book was one of the most misspent two hours of my week.

No comments: