Cohn, Rachel 1968-
Cohn, Rachel 1968-
Born December 14, 1968, in Silver Spring, MD. Education: Barnard College, B.A.
Home—New York, NY.
Teen Choice Award, for Pop Princess, 2004.
YOUNG ADULT NOVELS
Gingerbread, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.
The Steps, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.
Pop Princess, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.
Shrimp, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.
(With David Levithan) Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Knopf (New York, NY), 2006.
Two Steps Forward, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2006.
Cupcake, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2007.
(With David Levithan) Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List, Knopf (New York, NY), 2007.
Rachel Cohn has earned a place as a young adult novelist with a keen eye for the aspirations and challenges of contemporary adolescent girls. Gingerbread, her debut novel, features a sixteen-year-old named for movie star Cyd Charisse and determined to live up to her namesake's reputation for drama. "Told in flip and often funny teenspeak/Californese … this is an engaging tale about a girl coming to terms with her family and her relationships," according to Kliatt contributor Paula Rohrlick. After being kicked out of boarding school, she returns home to San Francisco. Tired of fighting with their little drama queen, her mother and stepfather decide it is time to send her to New York to get reacquainted with her biological father, Frank. This is not quite the cozy reunion Cyd had hoped for. Frank begins by introducing her as his niece, and her older half-sister Lisbeth shows hostility to this unwanted new family member, the product of her father's adultery. On the other hand, she grows attached to her gay half-brother, Danny, and goes to work at his partner's coffeehouse, while discovering the byways of her new hometown. "Cohn creates a vivid sense of place and culture on both coasts, and although Cyd doesn't find the perfect family in either place, she's able to find a more mature version of herself," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer. At the same time, according to School Library Journal contributor Gail Richmond, "Cohn works wonders with snappy dialogue, up-to-the-minute language, and funny repartee."
The Steps again features a girl going to live with her father's family, but this time the protagonist is twelve years old and the situation takes blended families to an almost absurd degree. By "the steps," young Annabel Schubert means the many stepbrothers, stepsisters, and half-siblings that her divorced and remarried parents keep bringing into her life. When her mother starts dating the father of a hopelessly uncool classmate, hip young Annabel is mortified. Then her beloved father, Jack (she calls him by his first name), remarries and moves to Sydney, Australia. Over Christmas break, Annabelle goes to pay him a visit, determined to hate the new family that has stolen her father away. But slowly, and much to her surprise, Annabel develops a growing understanding with her stepsister Lucy, and when the two of them run away to visit Lucy's grandmother in Melbourne, a true friendship is born. Writing in Horn Book, Martha V. Parravano found the book "packed with humorous incidents, life lessons learned, Australian travel tidbits, and a litany of preteen-girl touchstones." According to a Kirkus Reviews contributor, "it is a relatively predictable tale of raw feelings, jealousy, new friendships, and reconciliation, but it is enlivened both by Annabel's sassy voice and by the acuity of her observations."
While Cohn's readers can certainly relate to both Cyd and Annabel and no doubt find much to emulate, neither is really the stuff of fantasy. In contrast, Wonder Blake, the main character of Pop Princess, enters a world that many fifteen-year-old girls dream of. A fairly unpopular high schooler working at the local Dairy Queen and mourning the tragic death of her talented older sister, Wonder is catapulted to fame when a talent agent convinces her to release a single. "[Young adult] readers will eagerly absorb the details of Wonder's pop princess career," noted Kliatt contributor Claire Rosser, as Wonder moves to Manhattan, becomes the opening act for a jealous prima donna, and faces the temptations of drugs and alcohol and easy sex. Because the author "is making the point that stardom involves far more hard work than fun, this is no romp about fashion and wealth," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor. And while she certainly makes mistakes along the way, Wonder does show a determination to succeed that keeps her from indulging in the self-destructive behavior that has dragged down many budding stars. "Nothing about the novel's conclusion will surprise readers, but the twists and turns on the way are so much fun that no one will care," concluded Miranda Doyle in the School Library Journal.
Cohn's next young adult novel, Shrimp, is a sequel to her earlier work, Gingerbread. Shrimp finds heroine Cyd Charisse, now called CC, back in San Francisco for her senior year following her trip to New York to be with her biological father. The book follows CC through another period of growth, trying to make her relationship work with her boyfriend Shrimp, determining where she now stands with her mother, and making decisions about her future. CC's mother wants her to go to college after she graduates, but Shrimp is heading to New Zealand to check out the surfing there and he wants CC to go with him. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly pointed out some plot points that proved to be dead ends, such as CC's brief attempt at making some female friends, but concluded that "readers will be swept up in her relationship with Shrimp, which reads as authentic young love." Christine M. Heppermann, writing for Horn Book, called Shrimp an "uneven but still vital sequel." A contributor for Kirkus Reviews observed that the "original, partly stream-of-consciousness voice sounds like a real, well-educated rebellious teenage girl."
Cohn followed up Shrimp with Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, for which she collaborated with David Levithan, each of them contributing alternating chapters of the novel. The book takes place over the course of a single night, during which Nick, the only heterosexual member of the band "The Fuck Offs," asks Norah to pretend to be his girlfriend for a few minutes when he spots his ex across the room. Also newly broken up, Norah can empathize with Nick's desire to make his ex jealous, so she agrees to help him, all the while hoping he might also give her a ride home from the club. Instead the pair ends up roaming the streets of Manhattan for hours, visiting various musical venues and hearing snippets of music and talking. Gillian Engberg, reviewing for Booklist, commented that "many readers will respond to the tough, clever, amped-up narratives." A contributor for Kirkus Reviews remarked: "There's perfectly captured teen music-geek talk and delicious stuff about kissing and what lies beyond."
With Cupcake, Cohn once again returns to the world of Gingerbread and Shrimp. In this volume, we rejoin newly graduated CC as she heads to New York to live with her gay brother Danny and work for him. Danny runs a cupcake business out of his apartment, excellent training for CC, who also intends to go to culinary school. However, she finds herself enjoying life in New York a great deal, and her plans slowly inch toward the back burner as she makes new friends and fills her schedule with socializing. Then Shrimp shows up, and CC's romantic life kicks back into high gear. Booklist reviewer Jennifer Hubert remarked that "Cohn remains at the top of her wordy, pop-culture game," and she dubbed Cupcake part of a "a stylishly hip series." Myrna Marler, in a review for Kliatt, noted that "the novel shows a character in the act of figuring out life by taking some risks, all the while maintaining a kind and generous heart."
Cohn again teams up with coauthor David Levithan for Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List. The story focuses on Naomi and Ely, lifelong friends who live in the same apartment building, along with an assortment of other characters. Naomi loves Ely and has always dreamed of one day marrying him, even after he comes out of the closet. However, their friendship continues, despite Naomi's permanent state of denial, until Ely begins seeing Naomi's boyfriend and the truth of the situation becomes painfully clear to her. Janis Flint-Ferguson, in a review for Kliatt, observed that "through each character, we experience different aspects of friendship set against the frenetic social scene of New York City." Kathleen E. Gruver, reviewing for School Library Journal, called the book "a witty and highly entertaining exploration of love, friendship, and misunderstanding."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 1, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of The Steps, p. 887; January 1, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of Pop Princess, p. 843; April 1, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, p. 31; January 1, 2007, Jennifer Hubert, review of Cupcake, p. 80.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April, 2004, Deborah Stevenson, review of Pop Princess, p. 320.
Denver Post, March 30, 2003, Claire Martin, review of The Steps, p. EE2.
Girls' Life, April-May, 2004, review of Pop Princess, p. 40.
Horn Book, May-June, 2003, Martha V. Parravano, review of The Steps, p. 341; March 1, 2005, Christine M. Heppermann, review of Shrimp, p. 198.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2002, review of Gingerbread, p. 101; February 1, 2003, review of Pop Princess, p. 227; February 1, 2004, review of Pop Princess, p. 130; February 15, 2005, review of Shrimp, p. 227; April 15, 2006, review of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, p. 402.
Kliatt, March, 2002, Paula Rohrlick, review of Gingerbread, p. 7; March, 2004, Claire Rosser, review of Pop Princess, p. 8; January, 2007, Myrna Marler, review of Cupcake, p. 11; September, 2007, Janis Flint-Ferguson, review of Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List, p. 8.
Magpies, July, 2007, review of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, p. 41.
MBR Bookwatch, May, 2005, Vicki Arkoff, review of Shrimp.
Publishers Weekly, January 21, 2002, review of Gingerbread, p. 91; June 24, 2002, "Flying Starts," p. 27; December 23, 2002, review of The Steps, p. 71; January 5, 2004, review of Pop Princess, p. 63; January 24, 2005, review of Shrimp, p. 245.
School Librarian, winter, 2004, Janet Sims, review of The Steps.
School Library Journal, February, 2002, Gail Richmond, review of Gingerbread, p. 129; February, 2003, Maria B. Salvadore, review of The Steps, p. 140; March, 2004, Miranda Doyle, review of Pop Princess, p. 204; September, 2007, Kathleen E. Gruver, review of Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List, p. 193.
USA Today, April 13, 2004, Ayesha Court, review of Pop Princess, p. D4.
Rachel Cohen Home Page,http://www.rachelcohn.com (January 7, 2005).