I selected this book after taking one of those tests on Facebook that asked which female YA protagonist I was most like. The answer came out to be Norah from this book, so I thought I should read it. In fact, I am nothing like Norah, except perhaps for her lack of clothing style, but I loved the book anyway (or maybe, because of that!).
Nick is “the nonqueer bassist in a queercore band” and Norah is at the club where he is performing. He’s doing great until he sees Tris, the girl he was really into, who dumped him three weeks earlier. And to make matters worse, she came with another guy. Nick, who happens to be standing next to where Norah is sitting at the bar, turns to her and says: “I know this is going to sound strange, but would you mind being my girlfriend for the next five minutes?”
Sounds predictable, right? You know right away the five minutes is going to go on longer, and that the result of this meet-cute will probably be a hook up. But you would be wrong to dismiss the story so easily. The writing, deeply reflective of the punk rock scene, sparkles with energy.
Rachel Cohn takes the voice of the female protagonist and David Levithan of the male in this short novella, and they do a great job. The alternating chapters by each author/narrator riff off one another with chemistry that’s almost palpable, evincing cleverness, charm, and a remarkable and eclectic knowledge of the music scene. The variety of the sexual and gender identities and relationships woven so casually into the story is refreshing and uplifting for anyone tired of the same old rigid heterosexual lines in most books.
Discussion: This is teenage dialogue at its finest (although not necessarily at its most sanitized). I loved this reaction by Nick when he and Norah encounter Norah’s ex-boyfriend Tal:
“…this guy I’ve never seen before leans into Norah’s window and says, ‘Hey, baby, you ready to pick up where we left off?’
What. the. fuck?
Okay, maybe I hang with the queercore crowd and all, but still – I never, ever, in a million zillion years would have imagined that a guy would use the phrase ‘hey, baby’ and mean it. He says it like he’s whistling at some girl’s boobs as she walks down the street. Who does that?”
Norah in fact confirms she has been with a jerk when she freaks out after Nick is kind to her:
“I know you probably think I’m a horrid bitch from the planet Schizophrenia, but I’m honestly not trying to mess with your head. … I think you’re nice to me and that scares the fuck out of me. Because when a guy’s a jerk or an asshole, it’s easier because you know exactly where you stand. ….”
And at one point, when Norah leaves in a cab, Nick’s reaction is just the best. It’s worth reading for that chapter alone. And Norah’s feelings in the following chapter? Priceless.
Evaluation: This book is a quick read, but it’s full of memorable moments of feeling awkward, feeling hope, feeling hurt, feeling love, and feeling the magic that accompanies the discovery of someone new. If a lot of “language” doesn’t put you off, this book is terrific.
Note: A movie was made from this book in 2008 (that I did not see) starring Michael Cera and Kat Dennings.
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers, a division of Alfred A. Knopf, 2007