Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

Sex! Drugs! Rock and roll!

A quick read for the punk-loving bookworm, this dual-authored book tells the story of one night in the lives of two bridge-and-tunnel punk fans, who meet cute (in a hardcore way) and go on to kiss, talk, fight, question, talk, kiss, and talk some more.

Nick is the musician: he was dumped by the gorgeous but evil Tris "three weeks, two days, and twenty-three hours ago" and is still, of course, fixated on her. He plays very loud bass in a queercore band, though he's straight himself.

Norah is the (mostly) responsible daughter of a pop record executive, who knows all the clubs, the whole scene, and Tris, and is trying to get over her mind-f**king boyfriend Tal, for whom she unnecessarily threw over her chance to go to Brown.

I probably would have connected more to the novel if I were a music snob, or at least someone who listens to bootleg CDs more than NPR. But the emotions and voice capture a kind of teenage angst (cliche! cliche!) that's both brutally honest and just a smidge adorable. (In the same way that I always want to give Holden Caulfield a big fat noogie.)

Quibble? Despite the copious swearing and frequent sexual/quasi-sexual encounters, these two are really just good, clean kids. Everyone around them is tripped out on something - but our heroes don't drink or do drugs, thanks. They kiss and grope and touch and play - but just when something "real" is about to happen, they're interrupted by an old couple looking for the ice machine. Layered realism, or convenient passes in case of challenges from the Uptight Citizens Brigade?

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. Knopf, 2006, 183 pages. Cybils 2006 YA Fiction Winner.

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