Monday, April 22, 2013

Of best friends, ex-boyfriends, and a very troublesome list

I'm currently in a David Levithan phase, which was happily triggered by the wonderful Boy Meets Boy. That's why I've been busy visiting bookstores for the past weeks, scouring the shelves for Levithan's young adult novels. And I'm thankful that Levithan has brought me out of that reading rut. So glad that that unfortunate phase is over, well at least for now.

My 2nd Levithan read is a collaboration with Rachel Cohn: Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List. The book is very cosmopolitan, with it being set in New York, having 2 fashionable and very open-minded teenagers as protagonists, and touching on the concept of friendship in the context of one's romantic relationships.

We all have that one person who always has our back. For Naomi, it has always been Ely. These two have always been inseparable, and I can't help but think that it's by default. They grew up in the same NYC apartment, went to the same high school and are now in NYU, and have come up with a list containing the names of boys that are officially off limits to any of them. I completely understand the concept of the list. One cannot date someone that your bff doesn't approve of, yes? For these two, their friendship is priority. Of course, Naomi isn't just your typical fag hag; she's in love with Ely, who unfortunately for her is also into boys.

Things get complicated when Ely kisses Bruce the Second, Naomi's boyfriend. While Bruce the Second isn't on the No Kiss List, it's just a given that current boyfriends are off limits. But is Bruce the Second gay? Levithan doesn't clearly say so. I'm getting the impression that Levithan is shying away from labels, which can really get very tricky and restrictive. When Bruce the Second's mom asks him if he's gay, he responds with, "I'm just not straight." Okay, I can totally work with that.

What I'm not okay is that there are quite a few unnecessary characters in the novel. They just come and go; they just muddle up the story. There's Bruce the First, Robin (a girl) and Robin (a boy), Gabriel the doorman, their fellow NYU undergraduates. It can be quite frustrating, especially when Levithan didn't give clear voices to the minor characters.

The resulting conflict between Naomi and Ely leads to a healthy realization. Both of them have always been associated with each other that their separation, albeit temporarily, makes them realize their individuality. Naomi comes to grips with the fact that it's futile holding out for Ely. And Ely is finally comfortable with having a "serious" relationship with someone that he might really be in love with.

Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List is a quirky but beautiful novel about friendship. And love too. We love our friends. It might not be the same way we love our partners, but this love is as important to us nonetheless.

Read this book if:
  1. You've had a bff all your life.
  2. You value the opinions of your close friends when it comes to the persons you date.
  3. You hate labels.