23/05/2015

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
2006

I didn't know exactly what age this book is aimed at, but it's published in the UK by Electric Monkey, an Egmont imprint that specialises in teen/YA (presumably "young adult") fiction. Since Norah is eighteen in the book, and Nick a touch older, I would guess that the intended readership is therefore roughly fifteen-plus. Is the "plus" bit of that supposed to extend all the way to 46? No matter - I'm a sucker for a nice bit of romantic fiction and I enjoyed the film so I thought, let's try the original book, even if it is for kids.

Well. Um. Teen fiction sure has changed since I was that age. I can't remember exactly what I was reading when I was fifteen, but I'm pretty sure that none of the characters swore (at all), had abusive ex-boyfriends or (almost) gave blow-jobs in public places. In fact, the whole thing is much more like one of the racier Harlequin novels (maybe something from the Desire series) than what I had expected - although for Harlequin they would have to reduce the teen angst.

Oh - and seriously tone down the language. This book has probably the single highest FpP ("fuck" per page) count of any I have read recently - and when you consider that I am also currently reading Slash's autobiography, that's really saying something. I know that's how kids talk, and it doesn't offend me, but generally you don't write dialogue exactly how people talk because it doesn't come across right ("Like, um, so, he said, I dunno, something, right, and I was so, like, um ...") - unless you're going for a specific effect. Here, it just speaks of an insufficient vocabulary. Maybe that's right for the characters when speaking (although they are both supposed to be intelligent) but for their internal dialogue, it just seems lazy.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy it. It successfully captures a very teen experience; the heady, hormonal rush of meeting someone amazing and becoming so involved with them in just a few hours that you feel you know them inside out. I like the "he said/she said" format of alternate chapters from each character's viewpoint, although the motivations are still a little hazy sometimes. But it's a good read, the right length and the right ending.

Would I let my teenage children read it? Well, I actually did already know that teen fiction is a lot different from what I read. My 13 year-old has read the Hunger Games trilogy and although I haven't, I believe it's fairly grim. He wouldn't be interested in this because it's not action/thriller stuff. But my daughter? Well, it contains references to things I would like to think she doesn't need to know about until she's at least fifteen ... but maybe I'm kidding myself. I don't know.

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