Rachel Cohen is a new to me author but I've read David Levithan's Boy Meets Boy and The Realm of Possibility and enjoyed them. I've been hearing buzzing over this book for a while now, but it went on my "I really want to read this" list when I read the review on Dear Author.
This is one of my favorite reads of last year.
Obviously from the title, this book is about two people – Nick and Norah. Nick is a bass player for a queercore (whatever that is) band and was dumped three weeks ago by his girlfriend Tris. He's still reeling over this blow when he meets Norah at one of his band's gigs, around the same time he glimpses Tris coming towards him with her new boyfriend. Desperate to save face he turns to Norah and asks her to be his girlfriend for 5 minutes. Norah is a smart talking daughter of a music executive who just happens to know Tris, and although Nick doesn't know it, she knows what Tris has done to him. What flows from that meeting is a fantastic night in New York City as two kids from New Jersey go on what ends up being an all night date. The book is narrated in first person past tense and switches between Nick and Norah's viewpoints, so we ride the ups and downs that happen during this night as they get to know each other.
Overall: This is one of those books with a young adult label that is an instant classic to me because it's written in such a way that a teen today could read this again in 20 years and still like the book. Even though the book is full of cursing from both characters and many music references, it doesn't exclude the reader or try too hard. Everything seems natural. It does deal with some sexual situations and of course colorful swearing which may alarm some parents but it also has straight-edge (no alcohol or drugs) protagonists, friends behaving responsibly, and refreshing writing. If you're still on the fence – go read this excerpt and you'll be able to decide pretty quickly if this is the book for you.
I wanted to read the book before the movie came out but in the end I saw the movie first. This is one of those times where I liked both the book and the movie, but the two are really different. There are some major plot differences in the two, and while the movie had more humor, the characters in the book were more like real people I could believe in. Rent the movie, buy the book! In the movie, Caroline, who seems to have a real drinking problem, is reduced to a humor device, and Tris, who was multifaceted in the book, became a stereotypical and manipulative barbie doll.
While I enjoyed the colorful side characters that orbited the main two, what I liked most were the characters of Nick and Norah. Norah was especially endearing. Of the two, Norah is at first the tough no-nonsense one to me, responsible and looking out for her drunk friend, but I realized that she's also scared because the only other relationship she had was with Tal, a boy who did a number on her self-esteem. She's a jewish girl who is spiritual in a cool way, and Nick's response to her feelings about her faith is thoughful, not condescending or patronizing. That conversation about her beliefs is an example of the give and take between the two characters that flowed perfectly once they let it. I could believe that these were the types of conversations you had with someone you had an instant connection with – random topics that provide insight into the other and last for hours and hours. Nick seems like the perfect foil to Norah. He's the even keeled one who complements Norah's volatility. When she freaks and runs, he doesn't understand, but he doesn't give up on her either. He's someone who turns out to be more persistent and dependable than she'd imagined. From the one night here, I could see that these two braving life together.