Rachel Cohn and David Levithan are American young-adult fiction writers that have collaborated on five books. Rachel Cohn is known for portraying strong, witty female leads while David Levithan is adept in showcasing well-written gay protagonists in his books. Both have garnered considerable critical success over their careers. First concocted in the artful mind of Cohn, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist came about as an elegant collaboration between the minds and words of the two authors. The novel was adapted into a film in 2008 with many positive reviews.


The book relates the story of Nick, a straight bassist of a Queercore punk band, and Norah, a headstrong music-mogul heiress with a sarcastic wit and a love for music. Nick encounters his ex-girlfriend Tris in a bar where his band is playing. Embarrassed and heart-broken, he asks Norah, a total stranger, to pretend to be his girlfriend for five minutes so that he can make his ex jealous. Norah, reluctant at first, realizes that his ex-girlfriend is a nemesis from school and decides to go along with his suggestion assuming that he might also give her and her best-friend, Caroline, a ride home. And then starts the musical adventure of Nick and Norah spread across the vibrant music and night-life of Manhattan over the course of a single night.

“I’m thinking I would like to dance in the rain with this person. I would like to lie next to him in the dark and watch him breathe and watch him sleep and wonder what he’s dreaming about and not get an inferiority complex if the dreams aren’t about me.”

Any piece of literature (or motion picture, for that matter), that attempts to imbibe the culture of music of the ages, has a certain charm that is unparalleled. Maybe it is the mingling beauty of literature and music both woven together that brings forth an appeal that one seldom finds in their singularities. The book, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, is an admirable piece of work that attempts to portray that specific charm and appeal. It is a story of new tentative love, braided with the love of music and the culture that springs forth from it.

The story is narrated from the alternative perspective of the two protagonists, with Rachel Cohn wielding the world of Norah and David Levithan portraying the point of view of Nick. Levithan has portrayed a beautiful character that has recently had his heart broken and is looking for refuge from that pain in the music in which he has immersed his soul. The author’s trademark wordplay skills as an elegant telescope for emotions have been artfully brought to the fore in Nick’s character sketch.

“She leans into this guy and rocks her head like I’m making music for her, when if I could, I would take it all away and give her as much silence as she’s given me pain.”

On the other hand, Norah is a succinct and fiery complement, whose battles with her own issues in life and a night of tumultuous adventure is artistically expressed by Cohn. She has attempted to conjure up a character that hides her self-doubt and gullibility behind the veil of an intractable self-confidence and cynical wit. It is always a breath of fresh air to read an unapologetic female protagonist with a good taste in music and a well-written character arc.

“I always think of each night as a song. Or each moment as a song. But now I’m seeing we don’t live in a single song. We move from song to song, from lyric to lyric, from chord to chord. There is no ending here. It’s an infinite playlist.”

The story takes along the dual road of musical rediscovery of the underground punk music scene as well as the emotional roller coaster of teenage love in its initial spark. Even if the reader might not have an extensive knowledge of the music industry, the authors have beautifully used it to enunciate the emotions and perspectives of the story so as to leave the reader with an irresistible desire for melody. Spread across a sparkling landscape and only one musical night, the tale has aptly used every second and painted a time to remember regardless of its length.

Every young-adult fiction teeters on the edge of sounding authentic and overdone. A good one tilts toward the authentic. The book in question, sadly, leans more towards the latter. While the words and sentences sound like a flowing stream of surreal anguish and feelings, they seem ill-fitted in the mouth of a teenage boy new to love. Moreover, Norah’s self-centered train of thoughts coupled with a little over-dramatized self-victimization threatens to become a bit annoying in parts. Furthermore, the entire narrative is peppered quite generously with profanities that seem totally unnecessary and tawdry at moments.

Some sentences stand out as beautiful wordistry like many YA novels do, but the depth that the narrative as a whole must provide, is lacking.

Ameya Rating:

All things considered, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is a good attempt at showcasing transient teenage love through the lens of music. It is entitled to a fair 3.5 out of 5 for its linguistic prowess and intricate as well as eclectic portrayal of emotions in the metaphor of melody. It is sure to remind one of their feelings of first love and assure them of a rejuvenation of their love for music.

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