If I had a cheerleading uniform and a pair of pom poms, I’d break them out right now so I could show David Levithan and Rachel Cohn just how much I love their work. I’d cheer, I’d jump, hell I might even attempt some of those crazy backward flip things. I’d definitely concoct a cheesy rhyme that I could shout at the top of my lungs that outlines my enthusiasm and appreciation. Yes, I’d go to THAT much effort.
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (their first collaborative novel) was so supremely perfect that I didn’t think David and Rachel could do much better than that. I mean, how can you top perfection? You can’t, right? Wrong. Apparently perfection now holds a new name, and it sounds a little something like Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List.
Ely and Naomi have been friends forever. They live in the same apartment block and couldn’t be closer if they tried. They’ve got so much in common that they even like all the same boys. Yes folks, Ely is gay. So in order to protect their friendship against possible crush conflicts, Naomi and Ely devise a No Kiss List – a list of people that are off limits to both of them, under all circumstances. This works very well for them both, and life couldn’t be better.
Until Ely kisses Bruce The Second, Naomi’s supposedly straight boyfriend.
Because it’s the right thing to do, Ely tells Naomi and, not surprisingly, all hell breaks loose. For the first time in the history of The Ely and Naomi Show, the pair finds themselves experiencing some serious trouble in paradise. Things get nasty, they stop speaking and suddenly the No Kiss List no longer applies. All bets are off, every gay boy and straight girl for themselves.
Although the title suggests otherwise, this book is not entirely and exclusively about Naomi and Ely. Each chapter is told through a different character’s perspective, which adds a whole host of different tones and complexities to navigate. But it’s a good thing, and gives the novel depth. For example, through Naomi’s eyes, Bruce the Second is kind of boring and actually presents as a little two-dimensional. However, when Bruce the Second is actually given his own voice, readers step inside his head only to discover that he is adorable, smart, and kinda crazy about Ely. Cue violin music now, please. I found it very easy to forgive him for the terrible way things end between him and Naomi.
And then there’s Gabriel, who through Naomi’s eyes, is pretty much just a piece of eye candy, and through Ely’s eyes, is just the big-eared doorman. But when Gabriel finally gets his chance to narrate, readers learn that he’s deep, poetic and sensitive in a new aged kind of way. And man, does the boy have eclectic taste in music (which he is disappointed to learn, Naomi does not share). There’s also Bruce the First, Kelly, and the Robins.
Switching between characters so frequently means that you’ll never get bored reading this book because each character has a new agenda, a different purpose in the story. The one thing they do share in common, however, is Naomi and Ely, and everybody’s individual journeys are somehow linked to the Great Break Up of Ely and Naomi. Interestingly enough, I also think the constant switching between characters highlights just how limiting first person narration really can be. Naomi and Ely’s perceptions of the other characters are often unfair, or just plain incorrect.
There are some seriously touching AWWWWWW kind of moments in this story, but there are also a whole stack of humorous ones too. In fact, in several places I laughed so hard I had to put my book down, wipe the corner of my eye, and take a deep breath. Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List is pure quality entertainment, in the strongest, most emphatic sense of the word.
Cohn and Levithan write together brilliantly, and their enthusiasm for their work shines on every single page, through every single tiny, insignificant word. Their characters are so real, so alive, that I think I saw Ely at my local Starbucks last night. For the record, Bruce the Second wasn’t with him, but a very loud-mouthed, jaw dropingly gorgeous girl was. Defintely Naomi, for sure.