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

21 Apr

2006, Knopf, ISBN 0-375-83531-8

Plot Summary: Nick, the only straight member of a punk band, is playing a show at a New York club when the ex-girlfriend who broke his heart shows up with her new boyfriend. Trying to not reveal how hurt he still is, he asks a random girl nearby to be his girlfriend “for the next five minutes”.

The random girl is Norah, the daughter of a famous music exec, who is all too familiar with Nick’s ex and dealing with a breakup of her own. She finds herself attracted to Nick, but doesn’t want to get involved for a myriad of reasons.

The rest of the novel plays out in New York City as Nick and Norah fall for each other against a backdrop of punk rock, Russian food, and lots of self-examination. We learn more about NIck’s ex, Tris – a friend of Norah’s – and Norah’s relationship with her ex. Tris and Nick’s bandmate, Dev, offer relationship advice. We see the inner confidence crisis playing out in both their heads as they come up with reasons why one couldn’t possibly fall for the other. Ultimately, Nick tracks Norah down at a Russian eatery, where things fall into place as they let their guards down and talk to one another.

Critical Evaluation: Written from both Nick’s and Norah’s point of view in alternating chapters, the authors have gotten the teen voices down pat. Their voices will speak to teen readers who likely have, or have felt, the same relationship angst and the driving backdrop of the New York City punk scene will appeal to many teens, as will the concept of the playlist: a list of songs covering particular themes that Nick creates for his girlfriends. The book comes with its own suggested playlist for readers to download and enjoy. At times, the obsessive self-rumination on each character’s point grows a bit tedious, but will likely appeal to teen readers experiencing the same emotions. The characters are as fleshed out as they need to be, with personality reveals to the reader arriving at the same pace as they do to both Nick and Norah, allowing the reader to feel as if he or she is in real time with the characters.

Reviews: Teenreads.com: “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.”

School Library Journal: “The passion and intelligence of these characters, along with the authors’ intimate knowledge of and complete respect for their audience, make this novel unique.” 

Booklist: “…many readers will respond to the tough, clever, amped-up narratives, which include mosh-pit coarse language and the characters’ wild yearning for love, and music, which feels powerful and true.”

Awards: None.

Reader’s Annotation: To avoid his ex-girlfriend, Nick asks Norah, someone he just met at a punk club, to pose as his girlfriend for the next five minutes; they spend the rest of the night getting to know one another as they share a love of punk rock and Russian food in New York City.

Author Information: Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written three books together: Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2006), Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List (2007), and Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares (2010). Rachel Cohn’s book Gingerbread is an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, an ALA Top Ten Quick Pick for Young Adults, and a Publisher’s Weekly and School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. David Levithan is a Lambda Literary Award-winning writer of teen fiction with a GLBT (gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender) bent, including Boy Meets Boy and The Realm of Possibility. His books have also been chosen as ALA Top 10 Best Books for Young Adults and ALA Quick Picks. Their websites link to one another. Random House’s Nick & Norah website allows visitors to make and upload their own playlists, download audio excerpts of their books, and access characters’ blogs.

Genre: Romance. Subgenres: friendship, fiction.

Booktalking Ideas: Music plays a huge part in both NIck’s and Norah’s lives. How do you feel about music? Is it just enjoyable to listen to, or do you create your own playlists – your own “soundtracks” – for your life? Do you make playlists with and for your friends? What are some kinds of playlists you would create?

Reading Level/Interest Age: 14+

Challenge Issues/Defense: Language, mild sexuality, alcohol and drug use. Defense: The novel is written through the eyes of a teen in the punk club scene; the characters talk and act like older teens. They are past the age of consent – they are already 18.

Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?

I’m not normally a fan of the romance genre, but I thought it would be a fun book because I have read and enjoyed David Levithan in the past.

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