Review of “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist” by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

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.

Rating: 4/5

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


About rhapsodyinbooks

We're into reading, politics, and intellectual exchanges.
This entry was posted in Book Review and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Review of “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist” by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

  1. I’m not much of a YA reader, but this appeals to me. Maybe I should take that Facebook test to find my YA character, too! 😉

  2. Beth F says:

    I always meant to read this and see the movie, but, well, that didn’t happen.

  3. BermudaOnion says:

    Now, that’s the kind of YA book I like. I wonder what YA protagonist Facebook thinks I’m like?

  4. I wasn’t wild about that movie, but Kat Dennings was wonderful in it. I want better things for her than her current job!

  5. litandlife says:

    This is one of those books I’ve been thinking about picking up for a long time. Sounds like it needs to be done soon!

  6. Trisha says:

    I know I would like this book, and yet I have resisted buying it for ages. No clue why. I’m weird like that.

  7. I have read and enjoyed a few books by David Levithan but not this one. I loved it that you took that quiz and then read a book to see if you matched. When that quiz popped up on my radar I almost took it myself, just for kicks. I would want to most be like Harriet the Spy, but I’d probably get stuck with Bella from Twilight. That’s her name right?

  8. Heather says:

    I read this a few years ago and liked it a lot.

  9. Belle Wong says:

    Lovely review! You make me want to read this book, even though it’s not the usual kind of book I’d read.

  10. Athira says:

    I remember enjoying this book when I read it years ago, though all the cursing in the book made me a bit mad. Still, it was a cute read.

  11. stacybuckeye says:

    I’ve been interested in this one. Isn’t there a movie too?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.