these kids are far too young for so many 80s references

The back cover to Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan reads as follows:

nick: “I know this is going to sound strange, but would you mind being my girlfriend for the next five minutes?”
norah: “I answer his question by putting my hand around his neck and pulling his face down to mine.

No picture, no advance praise, no frills save the price and barcode stamped on the lower right corner. Though cheesy, I was intrigued.

N&N is presented in an alternating narrative of the title characters Nick and Norah, penned by Cohn (Norah) and Levithan (Nick). It’s a neat idea, and their writing styles fit together quite well — both of them thirty-somethings trying to sound like teens and overdoing it.

I mostly read this book for the promise of the music tie-in. The title is Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, so one would expect a heavy music backdrop. In one sense, it’s there — Norah is the daughter of a powerful record exec, Nick is the straight bassist of a queercore band. There are a few fictional bands, including “real” punks Where’s Fluffy (I think they’re supposed to be somewhere between Anti-Flag and Rise Against), and the oh-so-clever (read: not at all) Are You Randy? and Hunter Does Hunter. I was looking for more real-world bands to pop up, along the lines of Marc Spitz’s How Soon Is Never?.

Real band names are dropped here and there, with Norah giving Nick the ultimate compliment of being able to mix “Cesaria Evora to Wilco to Ani followed by Rancid, capped off with Patsy Cline blending into a Fugazi finale.” To be honest I think Ms. Cohn picked band names with “street cred” out of a hat and decided that fictional Nick could do it. I challenge Ms. Cohn or Mr. Levithan to produce a good mix with those bands. Mixtapes are our passion here and I want to know if it can be done.

Some positives about the book include the section where Nick and Norah first split for the night — the characters do capture a certain angst that is probably experienced by most teens. And that’s their target audience. At 23 I think I’m a bit past such blatant, woe-is-me, my life is going to end (END!) if so-and-so doesn’t feel the same way drama. Now it’s more internalized and fueled by alcoholic evenings and bad decision making. Oh, college.

Also, being so close in age to these 18 year old protagonists, I can still remember being that age and what life was like. Maybe things are different for Jersey kids than they were for my Eastern Pennsylvania high school years, but my take is that Nick and Norah are what 14 year olds want adulthood to be: having a car, staying out til all hours of the morning, and making out with dreamy rocker boys and scene girls.

In all the book isn’t bad, I could even push the scale over to the good side. It’s just a bit much to handle at my age and with my experience with music and musicians. However, as mentioned, for a 14 year old itching to get out from mom and dad’s rule, it’s not a bad escape.

2 thoughts on “these kids are far too young for so many 80s references

  1. Anonymous December 29, 2006 / 12:46 am

    Did I catch a Taft reference?

  2. stacey December 29, 2006 / 1:35 pm

    no sir. or ma’am.

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