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Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

First, we interrupt this not-so-regularly-scheduled broadcast for a quick newsflash:

I know most of you have probably already heard this, but Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is going to be a movie!!!! (follow the link for more information on the actors, director, etc.) I'm not really sure how a movie could possibly be as good as the book, but I'm optimistic.

But enough about Nick and Norah...

I had been reluctant to read Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List, for fear that it wouldn't live up to my expectations. And the truth is, it's not Nick and Norah, and I didn't love it in the same way, but it is still an enjoyable read in its own right.

The basic premise: Naomi and Ely, both freshmen at NYU, have been friends almost since birth. After the fallout from Naomi's father's affair with one of Ely's moms (yes, Ely does have two moms), they create the "No Kiss List," a list of boys who are off-limits to both of them, to protect their friendship. But then, Ely kisses Naomi's boyfriend, Bruce the Second, and their friendship begins to unravel.

This may sound complicated, and it is. And that is the problem. To compare with Cohn and Levithan's other work, N&N was essentially a simple story of two teenagers meeting and starting to fall in love. The characters themselves were wonderfully complicated, but the premise was not. In N&E, we again have interestingly complex characters, but there is just too much going on around them, too many different plot lines to follow, and I did not really feel a connection to any of the characters.

But there are a lot of really good things about the novel as well. The first one, which jumped out at me immediately, is that the main characters are college students. There's this trend in YA to make every protagonist 16 and a junior in high school, and there don't seem to be many novels that really reflect the college experience** Actually, one of my favorite lines in the novel takes place when Gabriel, the 20 year old, incredibly hot doorman, is hanging out with Naomi and one of her friends in the NYU dorm room, and he describes the scene around him:

"Robin-guy went to find his Super 8, but he found his water bong instead and then we forgot about the trial."
My dad thinks I'm missing out on a great growing experience by not going to college, but I suspect he's mistaken. (Gabriel 168).

As someone who didn't particularly enjoy the social scene in college, I can completely relate.

And, the language. Cohn and Levithan are both masters of describing emotions in completely original ways. An example:

"And that's when it turns into a musical. I mean, not literally. It's not like an orchestra starts playing or Bruce and I start singing. But I recognize this moment: It's the moment in the musical when the traveling salesman proclaims his love for the shy librarian. She doesn't believe it. He has to let her know. They're meant for each other -- they both feel it -- but only one of them believes it. It's time to take action, even if it's not easy. It's time to use the truth as a form of persuasion. I realize that" (Ely 225)

Oh, and they mentioned Marian the Librarian -- only the most famous fictional librarian ever!

And I'm convinced that they wrote the following just for the amusement of kidlit bloggers everywhere:

"Since when do you chew Orbit"....
"Since Madonna started writing children's books. Why do you care?" (Ely 45)

If you've liked anything else by Cohn and Levithan, definitely check this one out -- just don't expect another Nick and Norah.

*Though, please, if you know of any other examples, please, post titles in the comments!


Brian Mandabach said...

HA! Since Madonna started writing children's books! And since Jenna Bush started writing YA.

Have hope about the movie! I think you will after you see Rachel Cohn's blog about the filming (link on my blog:)

Sara said...

oooh... sounds promising!

and I've been trying so hard not to say anything HORRIBLE about Jenna Bush's book, but I was appalled by how bad the writing was!

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