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Rachel Cohn & David Levithan – Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List

March 9, 2012

23. Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan (2007)

Length: 240 pages
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult Fiction

Started: 26 February 2012
Finished: 27 February 2012

Where did it come from? The library booksale.
Why do I have it? I really, really enjoyed Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, so I definitely wanted to read more of Cohn & Levithan’s collaborations.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 21 October 2011.

What’s harder? Losing
your best friend, your boyfriend, or
both at the same time?

Summary: Naomi and Ely have been neighbors and best friends for most of their lives. Naomi sees no reason why they shouldn’t spend the rest of their lives together as well, plans that are only temporarily derailed by the fact that Ely’s gay (he’ll get over it and realize he’s meant to be with her, she’s sure). However, when Ely kisses Naomi’s boyfriend – and Naomi’s boyfriend kisses back – the harsh truth comes crashing home, and the formerly inseperable duo are now no longer on speaking terms. It’s a horrible fight, but each must somehow adapt to life without their other half until they can find a way back to what they had… if going back is even worth it.

Review: Cohn & Levithan do a lot of things right in Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List, and they get a lot of things right, but they didn’t quite recapture the lightning-in-a-bottle reading experience that was Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. I think that’s because in Naomi & Ely’s, they tried to widen their focus but wound up overreaching. Not in terms of the plot – the best-friend break-up is a fine subject, and one that’s certainly germane to a lot of teenagers’ lives – but in terms of the number of viewpoints they tried to pack into this relatively slim book. Obviously I was expecting Naomi and Ely, but Bruce the Second (Naomi’s then Ely’s boyfriend) got almost as many pages as either of the two titular characters, plus there were chapters from the POV of Bruce the First, Gabriel the hot doorman, Bruce the First’s sister, girl Robin, boy Robin, etc., and the end result felt kind of fragmented, with segments and sub-plots that weren’t as well-developed as they could have been.

On the flip side of the too-many-POV-characters problem is that there were a multitude of characters to sympathize with when both of the leads were being insufferably bratty. I understand that both Naomi and Ely’s becoming less self-involved and immature is the main character arc, and probably the point of the book, but it still meant that for large chunks of the story, I just wanted to smack both of the leads in the head and tell them to stop acting like obnoxious children. (Recognizably obnoxious, though; I’m sure some of my teenaged behavior was no better.) I think by the end, Bruce the Second wound up being my favorite character – he was definitely the one I understood and sympathized with the most, being much less inherently drama queen-y than either Naomi or Ely, despite going through just as radical of a change in his world.

However, despite the overabundance of shifting viewpoints and other minor annoyances (I really could have lived without Naomi inserting wingdings instead of words throughout her chapters), I did quite enjoy this book. It is funny as hell in points, and really poignant in others, and the best thing about it is that it has a great way of capturing moments that are emotionally true, in language that is simultaneously beautifully observed and still genuine to the teenage experience. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Not quite as good as Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist or Will Grayson, Will Grayson, although it’s similar to both, but anyone who enjoys contemporary YA novels should definitely pick all three of them up.

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First Line: I lie all the time.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2012 7:23 am

    I definitely agree that this was no Nick & Norah’s (which I loved so much I wanted to twirl a magical wand and magically join their world). I read this one almost immediately after the N&N so it let me down even more. Plus, if I remember correctly the characters annoyed me.

    • March 19, 2012 10:57 am

      christina – Yeah, I can definitely see how reading them back to back would make your opinion of this one suffer. I read them far enough apart that while I was aware this one wasn’t as good as N&N, the contrasts weren’t so glaringly evident.

  2. March 9, 2012 4:17 pm

    This one’s my least favourite of their collaborations (by some measure) and really that’s mainly to to both Naomi & Eli being as you say, insufferable.

    • March 19, 2012 10:58 am

      Darren – Do they just have the three collaborations (N&N, this one, and Dash & Lily)? Or is there one that I’m missing?

      • March 19, 2012 5:05 pm

        Just the 3 that I’m aware of.

      • March 20, 2012 9:30 am

        Okay, good, I’d hate to think I was missing one. (Dash & Lily is on my library wishlist – hopefully I’ll get to it soonish!)

  3. March 10, 2012 12:16 pm

    I really like David Levithan. I need to read more books by him and by them together. I have never read Nick & Norah, but I did see the movie…

    • March 19, 2012 11:00 am

      Kailana – The only David Levithan solo book I’ve read was Boy Meets Boy, and it was *years* ago, but I remember really liking it at the time. I also loved Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

      (And you should definitely read Nick & Norah’s… – it’s amazing!)

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