Book Review: Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

I have to start this review by saying that this one is a bit lighter-hearted that the previous two books I’ve reviewed- Unstoppable Moses and Everything, Everything both tackle some bigger issues than this novel. That is not to say, necessarily, that it is less profound.

Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List is the story of two 18-year-old college students, Naomi and Ely, who have been best friends for as long as they can remember. They live in the same apartment building, attend the same school, and spend every waking moment together.

To ensure the preservation of their decades long friendship, Naomi (interested in men) and Ely (also interested in men) maintain a “No Kiss List” which details all of the people that are off-limits for them to date, kiss, or show interest in.

Their friendship doesn’t even waiver when their parents (Naomi’s dad and one of Ely’s moms) have an affair that implodes Naomi’s life and demolishes her mother.

Until Ely kisses Naomi’s boyfriend, Bruce (the second; there are two Bruces in this book, referred to affectionately as Bruce the First and Bruce the Second).

All hell breaks loose and Naomi & Ely’s friendship comes crashing down. Only, Naomi isn’t upset about Bruce. She’s upset that her friend betrayed her and more importantly, she’s been in love with Ely all along. Naomi has to accept that Ely is gay and will never pine for her the way she has pined for him.

From this point until the end of the book, the revelations pour in for Naomi and for Ely, while Bruce (the Second) grapples with some of his insecurities. The novel comes to a close when Naomi & Ely find solace in a satisfying resolve.

Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List is written in numerous points of view- Naomi, Ely, Bruce the First, Bruce the Second, Kelly (Bruce the First’s twin sister), Robin (girl), and Robin (boy).

Admittedly, Bruce (the First), Kelly, and both Robins seem like extraneous points of view when you consider the story as a whole, but I digress. Maybe when I re-read this novel I’ll understand their pertinence. I’m a sucker for multiple POV’s anyway.

What I like most about this novel is not the plot or the lighter vibe that it emulates compared to some books that deal with more substantial life issues, but the familiarity of the character’s voices when they talk about their feelings. So much so that I’m actually working on a post that is a compilation of my favorite Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List quotes.

Sometimes I actually feel like the authors are inside my brain. The thought processes can sometimes feel so identical to things I have thought that it’s almost jarring how in-tune Levithan and/or Cohn is with the experience of being a teenager or young adult with emotions you can’t quite process.

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