(Original review written :- April 12, 2009)
I never really expected a book, each of whose pages are strewn with f-words to impress me. But uncannily enough this piece of young adult fiction by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan did. This book is about two teenagers each of whom are going through a difficult phase in their lives and how one night of togetherness helps change their views towards love, life and the future ahead.
Nick, the conventional 'nice guy' and the bassist of a band which doesn't have a fixed name, has just recently been dumped by his girlfriend Tris after he confessed that he loved her. Norah,on the other hand, is a loner despite having been in a relationship with the chauvinistic and the self-centred Tal for the last 3 years. She is the straight-A student, the feisty and a tad spoiled daughter of the hot-shot CEO of a record company and the chaperone of her best friend Caroline who is quite the party animal and gets drunk at every opportunity she gets. Norah is the witty, intelligent kind of girl who can't exactly be called hot but is beautiful in her own way if you notice carefully. Thus these two people meet on an eventful night while Nick and his band (they were calling themselves 'The Fuck-Offs' for the night...ridiculous huh?I know -_-) were performing in a certain club where Norah also happened to be present along with Caroline. And after Nick comes up to Norah and fake-propositions her with this corny line - “I know this is going to sound strange, but would you mind being my girlfriend for the next five minutes?” and she accepts his ludicrous proposal, their whirlwind journey through the night begins - a night during which they discover that their notions about love were prejudiced and learn how to deal with the demons of their past.
Norah who had been in only one relationship all her life instantly takes a liking to the decent and well-mannered Nick. Nick however finds it hard to get over Tris and entertain the idea of having a new girl in his life. Eventually though he comes around and realizes that Norah could be more than just his 'music soul-mate'. And all of this happens during the course of a single night as these two teenagers make their way through different clubs and gigs in Manhattan.
So now why do I like this book? The story seems like it has all the hackneyed themes of a typical young adult or 'chick lit' novel.
I think this is juvenile fiction at it's best. Because Nick and Norah are actual teenagers here who do not adhere to cliched portrayals of American teens who indulge in drugs, sex and alcohol in various high school dramas or tv shows. They have their own strong points and weaknesses. They are good and they are bad, at the same time. Profanity is a regular part of their vocabulary, yet there is nothing offensive about the way they hurl swear words at each other or others. It's almost like part of a tough guy/girl act on their part to hide the sadness that lies underneath the exterior.
Another thing that I liked about this book is that despite being a romance novel it never gets too mushy or cloyingly sweet. It's not the kind of romance where boy and girl meet, fall in love and get married after overcoming different kind of obstacles.
Nick and Norah discover how an ordinary night can turn out to be nothing short of spectacular and exciting when one has the right kind of company. It's almost as if forever is trapped somewhere inside that night where Nick and Norah and their relationship have endless possibilities. It could be that they end up married someday with a son named Salvatore as Norah muses ('Salvatore' was printed on Nick's jacket which he offers Norah). But for the moment, for the night ,it doesn't matter. This night is theirs and theirs only. And perhaps, it will stretch itself into both of their future lives.
Narrated alternatively by Nick and Norah, the story is fast-paced and the dialogue, witty and sarcastic. A recommended read for teenagers and also for readers who like their romance novels without the dose of mush.
P.S:- I watched the movie after finishing with the book but as usual was disappointed. Michael Cera and Kat Dennings made a good lead pair but the screenplay was bad - even yucky in parts (Caroline and her chewing gum-eww). For Heaven's sake why don't the directors follow the original storyline of the novels? I, for one, feel the end-product will turn out to be much better if they followed this simple rule.