Reading Roundup

nick-and-norahWhat’s on my nightstand? Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.

For the record, I prefer book covers to movie-covers-on-books, but I also take what I can get, and this is the cover I got.

The story chronicles the events of one night when Nick, the bassist for a punk band, meets Norah, daughter of a music bigwig and devoted punk fan and critic. Both are raw from recent heartbreaks, and this chance meeting throws them into a whirlwind of dread, doubt, discovery, and ultimately delight.

This was on my recommended reading list because I really liked David Levithan’s writing and perspective in Boy Meets Boy. I’m also attracted to the alien world of urban teendom, which seems to be where Levithan lives, literally and figuratively. Is there any greater opposite to “city girl” than moi? I am almost as distant from the music world that frames the story. I guess that makes this somewhat of a fantasy for this reader, eh?

Again, I like the way David Levithan tells a story and draws out emotion, even if teen emotions are sometimes too much for me. What I liked best of all, was the dual perspective.

While I love watching a single author pull off multiple voices and perspectives, I’m equally fascinated in watching multiple writers work together. It’s a whole ‘nother ball-o-worms.

What I gather from the FAQs on Rachel Cohn’s site is that David wrote a chapter from Nick’s perspective and sent it Rachel, then Rachel wrote a chapter as Norah and sent it back. They started with a very vague idea and let the story unfold organically.

How fun is that? I want to do that!

My critique group batted around an idea in which all six of us would collaborate on a multiple POV story, but we never got it off the ground. I think we tried to plan it too much, and I think maybe, just maybe, our tastes are too varied to be easily compatible. I don’t think we ever even settled on a target age range. And, of course, six POVs may be too many to coordinate under the best circumstances.

David and Rachel, however, succeeded brilliantly. I loved the back and forth between the two points of view and watching them weave together.

Your turn. What are you reading?

Categories: Reading

3 replies »

  1. Hmmm. I read YA books mostly in search of books for my oldest (13, freshman) to read. Nick and Nora was one that I read. I can’t say that I had nearly the same take. First off, their repartee seemed unbelievable to me. Their wittiness and pseudo-maturity seeed off the mark. However, like you, I’m not at all urban. Maybe it’s closer to the mark than I think.

    Next, the swearing. Do kids really cuss that much? Too much, in my opinion. I recall cursing in an exploratory way, but not as a normal part of conversation. It seemed over the top.

    The sexual aspects seemed entirely out of place and too casual. The last thing I want is for my young freshman to think that this is normal and ok. That any of it is normal and ok. Going out all night, being in unsafe situations, engaging in the risky sexual behavior, is anything BUT ok in my book. Ultimately, I decided to hold off on giving the book to my teen for the time being. I’ve heard rave things about Nick and Nora, but I have more of a rant.

  2. First of all, kudos on reading YA to help find things for your kids to read and to know what your kids are reading. More parents should do this.

    Definitions of YA vary among authors, publishers, readers, parents, everyone, so just because something is labeled YA doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for all YA readers. That’s why pre-reading is important.

    (Oh, I’ll warn you now: you probably know a lot of what I’m going to say. Mostly, I’m working through it all in my own head as I write. I know it’s not news to you.)

    I agree that N & N is not appropriate for your 13-year-old. I don’t think it’s appropriate for any 13-year-old, no matter what his/her reading capabilities. The main characters are 18 years old, out of high school. The feelings and issues and situations they’re experiencing are not those of most 13s.

    I find YA books getting older and older–meaning appropriate for older and older readers–and for some time they’ve been getting edgier and edgier. There was buzz for some time about labeling old-YA books “bridge books,” meaning those that bridge the gap between YA and adult titles.

    Do we need such a label? I think that once kids become proficient readers, and that can happen in the early teens, the door to all books is wide open, including adult titles. Kids read Lord of the Rings; isn’t that an adult title? And don’t kids reference adult non-fiction for some school projects?

    The issue, then, is not what they are capable of reading, but what they are interested in reading, what they can relate to, and–as concerns you in this case–what you want them to be exposed to. We simply can’t know that based on where a book is shelved, MG, YA, or adult.

    Kids tend to “read up,” though, meaning they like to read about kids who are older than they are. I can see 15s and 16s reading and liking N&N.

    As for the swearing and casual risky sex, well, yeah, I think it exists as portrayed for some 18s. The swearing got on my nerves, too, but I think to these characters some of those words are mere adjectives not expletives. The word “bitch,” for example (I know that’s not the one that bugged you!) seems synonymous with “girlfriend.” Yeah, that’s a noun.

    The sex–or near sex–is acknowledged as being unusual for these characters. They’re surprised and a little freaked out by it, too, being swept up in a crazy, intense moment. They both have responsible voices in their heads advising them to slow down and back up.

    As for the being out all night an wandering the streets of NY. What do I know from urban life?! Your current location probably gives you a leg up on me in that department! But if I think about college kids, sure, they’re occasionally up all night and probably don’t hesitate to wander around their home turfs.

    Finally, I think the edgy, risky behavior that gives you pause would be enticing to teen readers. I think the fact that a parent doesn’t especially want a kid to read a book is a big draw for some kids, as is reading about what seems like an exciting, dramatic, and totally different lifestyle. I think I would have been drawn to this in high school (not at 13, though) for the sheer alien aspect. It’s so far out of the realm of my reality at that time, I would have found it fascinating.

    Some people feel that kids’ reading about risky behavior satisfies urges to explore them, thus ultimately keeping them safe because they don’t have to go out and live the experiences themselves.

    I think I remember being 18 pretty well. While this by no means reflects my life at that age, I think it would have felt true and been of interest.

    I wonder if you might read it differently if you were not considering it in terms of your 13-year-old.