Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List -- Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Naomi and Ely have lived across the hall from each other since they were little, and they've been inseparable for just as long. Now they're freshmen at NYU, but they're both still living at home -- Ely, to save money on housing, and Naomi, to stay with Ely:
Ely and I created the No Kiss List in the aftermath of a long-ago Spin-the-Bottle party, still sometimes referred to as the You-Made-Out-With-Me-To-Make-Donnie-Weisberg-Jealous! Incident. Our No Kiss List is an ever-changing one, almost like a sentient being, chemically formed by Ely's ratio of Obsessive Study Time vs. Observational Boy Crush Time, and my ratio of PMS vs. boredom. By agreeing in advance that certain people are off-limits, even truly, madly kissable one--I'm talking it hurts knowing that person's lips will never touch yours because of your own vow of no-kissiness--Ely and I keep our friendship free of jealousy. The No Kiss List is our insurance against a Naomi & Ely breakup.
But, of course, boyfriends can't be included on the No Kiss List -- spaces on the List are reserved for boys whom neither of them can kiss. And so, one day, Ely kisses Naomi's boyfriend. He doesn't really mean to -- it just happened. But he isn't sorry. And suddenly, just like that, over a boy, their friendship is over.
Unbeknownst to Ely, Naomi's rage and hurt isn't about a boy. Well, it is, but it isn't about the boy he thinks it's about. While Naomi did technically have a boyfriend in Bruce the Second*, and while she does know that she and Ely both like boys, she can't help holding onto the secret hope that Ely will make an exception in her case:
When I tell Ely "I love you," but I'm not lying to him. I'm lying to myself. He absorbs my words as if they're natural, coming from his best friend/almost-a-sister. And Player One: Naomi does mean it that way. Genuinely. But maybe other ways, too. The confusing and impossible ways.
The response to Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan's first collaboration, was somewhat divided. Some people (myself included) adored it. People in that camp felt it captured the whoosh feeling of a new love, that it was an urban fantasy in which the magic didn't come from faerie folk -- it came from the music and the people and the energy of an all-nighter in the city. And we loved the dialogue. Non-fans didn't like it for various reasons -- the (some say excessive) swearing (and, yes, N&N certainly do swear a whole lot), the steamy situations (and oh, were they steamy), and the dialogue. Some felt that it wasn't realistic for Nick, Norah & company to talk the way they did -- that they sounded like they were reading from scripts written by clever thirty-somethings. (I actually liked that about the dialogue. Being the sort of person who only thinks of the witty retort days after it's needed, the book's banter added to the fantasy element for me.)
But I'm supposed to be talking about Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List. I only bring up the divided response to Nick and Norah because I think response to Naomi and Ely will be even more divided.
Heck, I'm feeling divided, and I'm only one person.
At first, I really didn't like the main characters very much. Either of them. They both seemed so self-absorbed and selfish and bitchy and too hip for their own good. And their friendship seemed to more more of an icky codependent-thing than a real friendship. But then, as I got more of their history and saw them from different perspectives -- we don't only hear from Naomi and Ely, we also hear from Bruce the First, Bruce the Second and Bruce the First's twin sister, from Gabriel the hot doorman, and from Robin (Female) and Robin (Male) -- they became more real for me. Ely loves the X-Men (which helped to downplay his hip-factor) and Naomi holds everyone, even (maybe most of all) herself, at arm's length (which helped to downplay her bitch factor). The more you understand someone, the harder it is to completely dislike them. And by the end, I liked Naomi and Ely. Not enough to feel the magnetism that most everyone else seemed to feel (except Kelly), but enough to care about them.
People might go into this one expecting another Nick & Norah. I did, even though I tried not to. So, for those of you who haven't read it: It's not another Nick & Norah**. The dialogue is still supa-hip, peppered with pop culture references, etc., but Nick & Norah, even with its angst, was ultimately a sweet book. Naomi and Ely is not. But there's more to think about here -- not just about friendship and family, but about who we love (romantically and/or platonically) and why.
*It's a long story. I'll leave that to the book.
**There is a scene in one of the same clubs, though. You'll know it when you hit it.