I normally adore anything David Levithan writes, but this book was a bit of a hard sell for me. I attributed this initially to the fact that I’m not likewise enamored of Rachel Cohn’s writing, and I presumed she wrote the starting chapter written from Naomi’s perspective. Ultimately, I think both authors share the blame for the book’s faults, but they weren’t so many as to preclude my liking it.
Like nearly every other Cohn-penned heroine I’ve read, Naomi is nearly insufferable. She
demonstrates the typical self-centered, hard-hitting, aggressiveness that Cohn mistakes for chutzpah. Unlike Cohn’s other characters, she also exhibits the eminently annoying trait of substituting symbols for words, which might have been quirky if employed once or twice, but when used in lieu of language in every other sentence, turned her sections into near-cryptograms of unnecessariness. Add to this a truly unlikeable persona and and inexplicable belief on which the entire plot is based, and Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List was off to a rocky start for me.
Were the female half of the protagonist team not so irritating, I’d say that the mix of perspectives detracted from the story. Many of the characters seemed tangential at best, and their chapters were introduced in such a way that their thoughts seemed to impede the flow of the story rather than progress it. However, given the fact that my favorite narrator actually happened to be Bruce the Second and that the multitude of supporting narration cut down significantly on Naomi time, I forgave the authors this stylistic choice.
What really saved this book for me was ultimately Levithan’s way with words (although I had a bit of a difficult time determining how many of the secondary characters’ voices he wrote) and the fact that Ely and Bruce’s relationship actually wound up being quite a sweet love story. Had I liked Naomi at all or even believed in her friendship with Ely, I would also credit the message that the story ultimately attempts to convey: the fact that friendships and romantic relationships really aren’t all that different, since they originate from the same source of love. Unfortunately, my complete inability to connect with Naomi made this message a little difficult to absorb.
I’m a bit ashamed to say that I cheated a little with this book. On plot alone, it would have gotten a three, but the fact that a solid page and a half are spent discussing Buffy the Vampire Slayer swayed my allegiance enough to bump it up an extra rating. Overall, I’ll read it again, but likely skip over certain narrators.