Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Review: Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List

The situation: You are a girl who is in love with this boy ever since you can remember. You two are inseparable, because you have already formed a strong bond when you were still but wee things that live next to each other in an equally wee apartment. The problem is, even if he does love you, it’s only a sisterly/ friendly affection…and it’s because he prefers to be in love with boys. Yes, girl: he’s gay.



In order to protect your friendship, you created a “No Kiss List”, which is, as the name says, a list of people that both of you shouldn’t kiss. Then you committed one mistake: you didn’t put your boyfriend’s name on the list. When your gay friend kisses your boyfriend, every brick of the foundation you cemented to strengthen your soulmate-ish relationship starts crumbling. Can any attempt to save your friendship not end in vain? Or is it already given that romance is superior to any kind of relationship?

This is more or less the gist of Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, another brainchild of the duo famed for their head-bopping, heart-pinching novel, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.

For me, Cohn and Levithan work like adventurous chef partners. Instead of cooking up a hackneyed recipe that everyone is comfortable with, they experimented with all their ingredients to come up with a new literary dish that, containing both the authors’ tasteful styles, will definitely delight young readers’ hearts. Cohn and Levithan wrote Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List the way they may have baked a multi-layered cake. They take turns in making each layer, sprinkling them with the common flavors of friendship and love and adding a surprising tang in the icing to make things both unfamiliar and foreign for the readers.

The book is comprised of chapters told in the POV of so many characters, changing every chapter. It’s like the authors want the readers to look through omniscient lenses without actually learning the stories from an omniscient third person point of view. Ordinarily this may be confusing, and I commend the authors for making it work throughout the novel.

It’s amazing how a small world—the apartment where the characters reside, in the case of this book—contain no two people that are exactly the same. Everybody is a finger print: they have their individual identities that shine through mere narration. Everybody feels deep and real, and their thoughts, unhindered by any filter, come out as harshly honest as they can get. Naomi is a girl with a hard bitchy shell but with a soft, warm personality inside; Ely is the epitome of promiscuity and egotism in the book. Then we have Bruce the Second, bland, paranoid, and seemingly boring, who creates the crack between the main protagonists’ relationship; Bruce the First, Naomi’s ex that has a penchant for Nicholas Sparks books and thinks Madonna is better than the Beatles; and Gabriel, the apartment’s doorman who creates CD mixes for Naomi, having seen a side of her that inspires him. Those are just the primary characters, there are others that stand in the background but provide ripples that touch and affect the storyline. What’s more amazing is that even the characters that didn’t get to get their own chapter, whose minds the readers weren’t able to enter, contribute to the build-up of the story. Watch out for the tales of the main characters’ parents. :) They’re as equally interesting as Naoim and Ely themselves.

This makes the novel character-driven instead of plot-driven. The different voices propel the story to go on, and they make the way towards the end strewn with epiphanies, regrets, and important lessons about friendship, family, and love. It has a lot of funny and poignant moments that are balanced perfectly in a scale that only Cohn and Levithan can pull off. It has an atmosphere reminiscent of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, but they occupy rungs of different kinds of awesomeness on my favorites ladder. Oh, speaking of NANIP, there is a reference to it in this book! For some weird reason I went giddy when I read it haha. :p
It’s a short book and is best read in one sitting. Like NANIP, f-bombs abound and LGBTQ theme is explored thoroughly; some character’s thoughts and speeches may be extremely offensive to some readers. You’ve been warned. :p

Four stars for a good, quick read.

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