Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist" by Rachel Cohn/David Levithan, "Catherine, Called Birdy" Karen Cushman

Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist:

First off, I like the throw-back to the Nick and Nora of Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man.
Secondly, I enjoy both of these authors when they are writing singularly. I especially enjoyed the books Gingerbread and Shrimp by Rachel Cohn. The fresh, quirky narrative reminded me of Francesca Lia Block's fantastic "Dangerous Angels"/Weetzie Bat series.
I also enjoyed the premise of "Nick and Nora"---two music lovers meet at a punky, sweaty concert. Nick grabs the closest girl next to him to kiss just as the girl who broke his heart walks by and Nora obliges. This part consumated in the first chapters and the need for a buildup to reach the moment ( as is the case in so many teen novels ) relinquished, the next hundred-odd pages jumps His/Her perspectives, as Nick and Nora learn about each other and New York. New York becomes their playground; it is a whirlwind of adventures and the perfect scene to add to their rotating music video-type life.

One of the off-sets of the writing is the perpetual need to curse. Honestly, I am a bit of a prude, but even I shrug off a strong word now and then for the sake of poetic license. In Nick and Nora's case it actually detracts from the narrative. The reader is instead puzzling " How will Levithan and Cohn slide this "f" here and this one there...."
I know that in the name of edginess, the teenie novelists are dying to scrape down the conservative wallpaper of inhibition. But please, does originality have to be sacrificed in its stead?

An interesting whiz perfect for a night when you feel like hitting The Bronze with Buffy and's that kind of book.

Catherine, Called Birdy is the first novel by Karen Cushman-- a now hugely popular YA novelist ( specifically in the YA genre ) who has won the Newberry. Set in the medieval time periods, Catherine is a spunky heroine who keeps an " account" of the goings-on in her quiet home and village . Although she is well and high-bred, her family's poverty asserts she marry wealthy. A score of suitors show up to court the young maiden and Catherine fights them all off... with pranks and pleas and costume changes ( such as mouse bones in her hair and blacking soot on her teeth ). It is Catherine's pursuit of her own happiness that makes this book so intriguing. Her perserverence and her refusal to marry anyone deemd unworthy sets her above the rest.

Cushman paints the medieval period without romanticism. It is grubby and gritty and dirty and crass. We see the grease, learn of the privy and hear many of the time's exclamatory remarks.

not a bad read at all. I can see why it is a favourite of some of today's more prominent young adult novelists ( Meg Cabot, et al).

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