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Noah Can't Even

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Poor Noah Grimes!

His dad disappeared years ago, his mother's Beyonce tribute act is an unacceptable embarrassment, and his beloved gran isn't herself anymore. He only has one friend, Harry, and school is...Well, it's pure HELL.

Why can't Noah be normal, like everyone else at school? Maybe if he struck up a romantic relationship with someone - maybe Sophie, who is perfect and lovely - he'd be seen in a different light?

But Noah's plans for romance are derailed when Harry kisses him at a party. That's when things go from bad to worse utter chaos.

365 pages, Paperback

First published May 4, 2017

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About the author

Simon James Green

16 books656 followers
Simon James Green grew up in a small town in Lincolnshire that definitely wasn’t the inspiration for Little Fobbing – so no-one from there can be mad with him, OK? He enjoyed a classic British education of assorted humiliations and barbaric PE lessons before reading Law at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he further embarrassed himself by accidentally joining the rowing team despite having no upper body strength and not being able swim. When it turned out that being a lawyer was nothing like how it looks in Suits or The Good Wife, and buoyed by the success of his late night comedy show that involved an inflatable sheep, he travelled to London to pursue a glamorous career in show business. Within weeks he was working in a call centre, had been mugged, and had racked up thousands of pounds worth of debt. Finding strength and inspiration in the lyrics of "Tubthumping" by Chumbawumba, he eventually ended up working on a range of West End shows and UK tours, co-wrote a feature-length rom-com for the BBC and directed Hollyoaks for C4 / Lime Pictures. After trying really, really hard, he also managed to write Noah Can’t Even. If you are interested in stalking him, he still lives in London, where he spends a lot of time telling people that Noah Can’t Even is only partly autobiographical, and his mum has definitely never done a Beyoncé tribute act.

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5 stars
942 (23%)
4 stars
1,329 (33%)
3 stars
1,090 (27%)
2 stars
456 (11%)
1 star
172 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 578 reviews
Profile Image for ☆ Todd.
1,369 reviews1,507 followers
March 26, 2018

This story was freaking hilarious.

And "Noah Can't Even"? I'm not sure I've ever come across a more aptly-titled book in my life.

Noah was a skinny, socially-inept nerd and, in his misguided quest for popularity and acceptance, he repeatedly made one insanely bad choice after another, which turned his life into a huge web of complicated lies, placing an ever-tightening noose around his own neck and, yep, by the end, Noah "can't even" with any of it.

However, if you're looking for a touching romance, which develops over time and focuses on the MC's spending loads of time together... this is most decidedly *NOT* that story. At least not this first book in the series.

Instead, the story is more like the misadventures of 15 y.o. Noah Grimes, as he rather desperately attempts to find out who he is and where his attractions actually lie.

But Noah's nothing if not a bit clueless, like how maybe he should've guessed he wasn't quite straight when the school mean girl threw herself at him sexually and he couldn't escape her fast enough.
“I’m hot for you, Noah!” she purred, like a bad porn actress.

“Oh, God!” he screamed, panicked by how fast things were happening and trying to fling her off him. It was no use. She was stuck like a deranged, sex-mad limpet.

“Look, if you’re hot, maybe you should cool down?” he said. “I could run you a cold bath? Or maybe hose you down in the garden? Have you got a hose?”

And the story is chock full of funny moments like that one, which had me laughing like an idiot pretty much the entire time.

My only niggle about the book was how, after Harry kissed Noah at the party, there was this huge, awkward distance between them, so for the majority of the book they rarely said more than two words to one another. And while I got a vague sense of Harry, he wasn't really on page enough for the attraction to feel completely, unquestionably real.

I'm very much looking forward to the next book, "Noah Could Never", where I'm hoping we get a lot more on-page time with the two of them more fully developing their relationship.

As YA stories go, Noah came across as much more naive and young than what I'm used to, but I thoroughly enjoyed his story, nonetheless, so I'd rate this book at around 4.25 stars.

I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who was a fan of Nash Summers' "Life According to Maps" series. : )
Profile Image for Hollie (Hollieblog).
322 reviews62 followers
May 9, 2018
I ignored all the signs.

I ignored the banana on the cover. I ignored the '100% awkward' sticker. I ignored the TITLE. I saw that it was a UKYA debut with LGBTQ+ rep and wanted to support it.

But nope, I can't do it anymore. This book is awful.

I expected the cringe, how could I not? With that blurb and and that title ('can't even', do people still say that?), but the amount of blood curdling 'awkwardness' smashed together in every sentence was enough for me to stop. I am wary of saying a YA book is too childish for me because I'm 25. I'm not a teen, and so most teen books are not written with me in mind and of course that's the way it should be. But I've read teen books that are clearly for teens and not for me, and I've either still enjoyed them or thought nope, not for me, and moved on.

But this book is so childish for even teens! It reads like Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Horrid Henry, but with so many sexual innuendos to the point that they're not even sexual innuendos and are just made to be. But it's all still so childish; instead of saying the word 'sex', Noah says 'bow chika wah wah', EVERY DAMN TIME, the writer puts dialogue in of sounds e.g. '"GWAAAAAAARH" I moaned loudly.' What? Do you think we've never heard that sound before? He also at one point, out loud, to another human, says "Go home, you're drunk." I've never read something that was so glaringly obviously not written by a teen. I understand Noah is meant to be awkward and nerdy, but it's every piece of dialogue. There's also instances of classism, where Noah insults skilled labourers, people receiving benefits, and tattooed people (not that having tattoos gives any indication of your social class, unless you're Katie Hopkins).

There's also the problem of his mother, who's played for laughs as embarrassing and making life difficult, when actually she's abusive and neglectful. This isn't really addressed and Noah still acts awkward around her too, so I don't know if we're supposed to laugh at her 'shenanigans' or be genuinely concerned. From the blurb, I thought she would be the type of embarrassing that most teens think they're parents are, not actually awful.

I wasn't planning on writing such a long review of this. I don't like ranting about books too much, especially this book is a debut. But it's also just awful, and I feel like people needed to be warned.
Profile Image for Eli Easton.
Author 76 books2,656 followers
May 28, 2017
First off, I adored the writing style in this book. It's completely and utterly charming, funny, and sweet. I underlined tons of passages and laughed out loud. It's all written in Noah's POV (third person), and he's spastic and awkward and geeky and adorable.

Going up to 60%, I thought this was going to be a 5, 6, 7 star read for me (out of 5). Noah thinks he likes a girl, though his sexual development has been a bit slow on the uptake (he's 15). But when his best friend Harry kisses him at a party, Noah is confused.

The second part of the book lost me a bit. The writing is consistently adorable, and the scenes funny/angsty, but I kept waiting for the story to get back to Harry, and the romance, and it kept not doing that. There were loads of mom-and-dad shenanigans, and a sub plot involving another girl, blackmail, and gobs of Noah consistently in-denial thoughts. It felt like so much "wackiness" was piled up, one absurd thing after another, unloading on poor Noah. A lot of it was funny, but after a while, I was rolling my eyes and getting impatient with all the family uber drama, checking my page count, wanting to get back to Harry.

We don't, in fact, get back to Harry until 95%. And then, it's a stellar little scene where Noah finally gets clear on his feelings. However, then it's the end. I would have loved more of THEM, on page. I felt a little cheated that we never saw them as a couple.

After all the build up about not caring what people think, and being proud of yourself, and Harry and Noah being bullied at school, I thought we'd get at least one scene where they are together at school as a couple and they ignore or blast through the fallout. But we never get to see that. It felt like a bit of a cheat. It's all well and good to say "you shouldn't care what anyone else thinks!" But then SHOW us that, show us Noah finally being brave, show how they deal with it, show us love winning the day. Because we certainly see enough of Noah doing the "no, no, not me! not gay!" thing for pages and pages. We needed to see him step up to the plate, and with more than just Harry. But alas, that's not in the book.

All in all, if you like YA with wonderful, funny writing, and are looking for a book that's more about peer pressure and crazy teen family drama, with minimal romance on page, you'll love this. The writing was so good, I will definitely be looking for future books by this author.
Profile Image for Anyta Sunday.
Author 89 books2,571 followers
May 15, 2017
Silly, and OTT, and I loved, LOVED every calamitous moment of this YA novel!

I haven't LOLed like that in ages. Okay, sure, some of the plot read like a soap opera--but sometimes it really does feel that way growing up. Noah was a fun protagonist to read and gives the story heaps of awesome energy.

Seriously refreshing. Fast-paced and fun.

<3 <3 <3

Also, British. Awesomely British.
Profile Image for anna (½ of readsrainbow).
596 reviews1,844 followers
Shelved as 'dropped'
September 26, 2018
there are embarrassing characters and then there is noah. there's cringe worthy writing and then there is..... this. whatever it is. god not even skim-reading helps..... life is just too short my guys
Profile Image for jut.
478 reviews188 followers
February 6, 2022
i really hoped it was a good book, and i'll be honest, there are some parts that i enjoyed/liked BUT the thing is: it's not bad because of how cringe it is, it's just bad...with excessively sex innuendos and made the book just tragic.

the only part i really liked was: harry.
Profile Image for Al.
Author 27 books156 followers
June 6, 2017
Lovely, lovely, loveliness, muchlovely, lovehood, loveingham
Profile Image for Meags.
2,175 reviews411 followers
November 10, 2020
4 Stars

This British LGBT themed YA romp was just what the doctor ordered.

Noah Can't Even is the story of a clueless teen finding his way in an ever complicated and ridiculous world.

With an absentee father, a pain-in-the-arse mother, a badass gran, and the most wonderful best-mate a boy could hope for, Noah Grimes really has A LOT to deal with. Parental falsehoods, potential half-siblings and crazy school girls are just some of the unwanted dramas Noah finds himself facing.

Add to that, a sexual identity crisis of epic proportions after best-friend Harry kisses him unexpectedly at a party.

To say Noah is ill-equipped to handle all of this is putting it mildly.

Although fiercely intelligent and wise beyond his years—in a way that suggests he was born already a grumpy 80-year-old man—Noah goes from one outrageous situation to another, baffled by the behavior of those around him, and somehow, after making some foolhardy choices made with good intentions, his already rocky existence starts to landslide out of his very delicate control.

This story was quick-paced, quirky and heartfelt. It’s practically a tamer version of the Netflix hit Sex Education—and trust me when I say that’s a comparison of the highest praise coming from this die-hard fan.

Noah Can't Even is silly and over-the-top in all the right ways, making the laugh-out-loud moments an absolute joy to read.

I adored Noah and Harry, and I look forward to reading more about them in the sequel, Noah Could Never.
Profile Image for Francesca.
590 reviews2 followers
July 31, 2017
What a treasure of a book!
Funny and poignant at the same time; this deliciously British coming of age is for sure one of the best books I have read this year.
Highly recommended
Profile Image for Bárbara.
1,143 reviews70 followers
April 4, 2018
OH MY...
This was super crazy and hilarious, and somehow charming and adorable.
I really, really liked it!
Profile Image for Kathy - Books & Munches.
447 reviews156 followers
July 22, 2018
I just can't. Dnf'd at 104 pages because I cannot for the life of me connect with Noah. He gets on my nerves all the time. Instead of a sixteen year old, he feels like a ten year old who cannot - at all - have one proper conversation.

I simply didn't enjoy a thing of what I read..
Profile Image for Andrea Belfiori.
125 reviews971 followers
May 30, 2020
Devo dire che all'inizio il libro mi aveva preso moltissimo e mi aveva fatto morire dalle risate grazie al protagonista "adorabilmente imbarazzante", però alla lunga la storia è diventata un po' troppo assurda e secondo me troppo piena di eventi (anche se comunque tutto si collega in modo impeccabile). Anche il comportamento di Noah mi è sembrato un po' ripetitivo e ridondante e alla lunga mi ha stancato... Avrei voluto magari che accanto all'umorismo ci fosse una storia un po' più profonda. Resta comunque una lettura leggera e piacevole ma che forse alla lunga può stancare. Ma secondo me va letto solo per il personaggio della nonna di Noah, meravigliosa! Livello di inglese: medio.
Profile Image for Suki Fleet.
Author 29 books631 followers
June 3, 2017
Aw this had some really sweet moments. Majorly OTT but in a very satisfying way. Reminded me of film ‘Wilt’ somehow. Noah did seem a very young fifteen/sixteen but his innocence was sweet.

The only thing that disappointed me was
Profile Image for Sharon.
1,118 reviews79 followers
May 18, 2017
Noah is almost sixteen, and has a crush on beautiful classmate Sophie.

When Noah's best friend Harry kisses him at a party, Noah is shocked (but not altogether disappointed). What does this mean for Noah and Sophie? And indeed, Noah and Harry?

As if questioning his sexuality and his friendship with Harry wasn't enough, throw in a Dad who has gone AWOL, a loud, foul mouthed Mum who moonlights as a Beyoncé tribute, an 80s-music-loving Gran with dementia who is plotting an escape from her care home, and a plethora of school related trouble - and Noah just CAN'T EVEN.

This is so funny. Actual, proper, grinning-like-a-loon, laugh-out-loud funny. Noah's internal (and sometimes external) dialogue is hilarious. I adored Harry and Sophie, and I loved the arc with Noah's Gran. Yes, it does descend into pure lunacy at times with regard to some of the things that happen, but it just works here. There are some really touching moments too, with regard to conversations about sexuality and standing up for yourself.

I loved the message in this book - particularly this pearl from Noah's Gran:

"You know what I would do? What I did? Don't try to label it. Don't even think about what it is. Just enjoy the moment. And remember that no moment is for ever. And other moments come along. And sometimes they're even better. Sometimes they're worse. But don't fret about it. People always like to talk, but ask yourself: in the grand scheme of things, in the total insignificance of our tiny lives in this massive universe, who gives a shit?"

I'd urge everyone to take a chance on it - especially if you're someone who would never consider a Young Adult novel as a potential read. One of my favourites of the year so far (definitely my favourite YA of the year) and I will be heartbroken if we never hear from Noah again.

I adored this book. Please read it!
Profile Image for Eeva.
829 reviews40 followers
September 26, 2017
I can't even.
I think that might be the worst book I've read this year. I would give it zero stars if I could, but I'm giving it 1.5 just because I loved Gran.

This book's main fault is trying too hard to be funny. You know what I get when someone tries to be too funny? Second hand embarassment.
Also, Noah, the main character is 15 (almost 16) yet he's at the mental level of my 10yo nephew. Harry Potter battled forces of evil like bazillion of times already when he was 15, and Noah can't even form a coherent sentence without sounding like a mentally challenged caterpillar.
Everything is this book is ridiculous and not is a nice quirky way...
Profile Image for Ari.
991 reviews108 followers
September 4, 2017
I'm not goin to rate this book, I dont think this book should be taken seriously.
Some lad somewhere in London has too much time in hand and one night come home drunk and taraaa.. wrote this book

Yeah it gave me chuckles here and there but the irritating and stupid characters (yes plural), stupid plot, left me speechless in disbelieve

I never been feel stupid like this before...
Profile Image for anto.
148 reviews39 followers
July 27, 2018
what can i say about this book if not that is the cutest one? i loved everything, such a lovely story with great characters and very well written! i need the sequel now.
Profile Image for Teal.
608 reviews201 followers
October 29, 2017
This is a difficult one to rate, so I'll just admit I'm stumped and give it 3 stars.

I thought the quality of the writing improved over the course of the book. The initial tone was stridently, aggressively humorous, to the point of being farcical. Indignities and humiliations were heaped non-stop onto 15-year old Noah. But the kid was suffering through too much hell for me to find his situation funny.

Harry's characterization was... Weird. Inconsistent. The Harry we first meet, with his jolly, good-natured enthusiasm for Noah's crush on Sophie, has no connection with the Harry who's

It does have its moments:

“Everyone’s different, Mum, it’s fine to be different!”

“No, Noah, it’s not,” she said, pushing him into his bedroom. “They just say that to make the weird kids feel better."

There's a nice HFN that's appropriate for the age of the characters, but also an obvious set-up for a sequel. My immediate reaction was that I would not be reading it. Enough of torturing Noah already! That poor kid deserves a break.
Profile Image for K.
1,608 reviews71 followers
May 14, 2017
Very funny everyday story of a 15 year old boy who is a bit of a nerd who loves Agatha Christie/Murder She Wrote, brought up by a single mum who has a Beyonce tribute act, a gran with dementia who is determined to escape her care home, a missing father and a best friend who at a party one day suddenly kisses him.

Noah's life is hectic, a bit over the top is places, but his voice does read as a teenager. The humour and general tone of the book is very British - with Noah adamant that people shouldn't use Americanisms.
Profile Image for Leyna.
312 reviews9 followers
September 3, 2019
Please, forgive me, my English-speaking friends but this review will be entirely in Polish.

W założeniu to miała być przyjemna i zabawna lektura dla nastolatków i choć sama nastolatką już od dawna nie jestem, to mam nastoletnich synów i to właśnie dla nich przeczytałam tę książkę. Szkoda, że nie można cofnąć się w przeszłość, bo to była kompletna strata czasu.

To, co miało być przyjemne i zabawne, okazało się stekiem bzdurnych zwrotów akcji, z idiotycznym, wcale nieśmiesznym, za to reklamowanym jako "brytyjski" humorem. Brytyjski humor znajdziemy u Monthy Pythona, a nie w tej idiotycznej powiastce. Zamiast się śmiać, niemiłosiernie się krzywiłam, bo ta książka WCALE zabawna nie była. Chyba tylko siłą woli dobrnęłam do końca, żeby móc jej wstawić zasłużoną pałę.


1/ Ta książka jest po prostu dziecinna.

Bohater, który rzekomo miał mieć 15/16 lat, zachowywał się jak typowy 11/12-latek.
Sorry, ale który żyjący w 21 wieku 15-16-latek nie wypowiada słowa "seks", używając zamiast tego "tenteges"? No błagam *przewraca oczami*
Tak, tak, wiem, Noah jest szkolnym nerdem, ale wiecie, w przeciwieństwie do Polski, oni tam mają w Wielkiej Brytanii w szkole taki przedmiot jak edukacja seksualna. I nieśmiałość nie ma z tym nic wspólnego.

Jdnocześnie ten sam Noah, który wielokrotnie ma problem z wypowiedzeniem słowa "seks", nie ma problemu z przechwalaniem się w szkole, że przespał się z dziewczyną i punktowym ocenianiem jej zachowania w łóżku, choć to kłamstwo!

2/ Stereotypy.

Dziewczyny są puszczalskie, oprócz oczywiście tej jednej jedynej przyjaciółki Noah, która nie jest i która od razu wie, że Noah jest gejem, mimo że on sam twierdzi, że nie jest i absolutnie temu zaprzecza.
I NIE będę pomijać faktu, że dziewczyny są traktowane jako obiety seksualne.
Tak, zdaję sobie sprawę, że w realnym życiu często tak właśnie jest, ale to nie znaczy, że mamy to przyjmować jako coś oczywistego i pokazywać nastolatkom, że takie zachowanie jest normalne i akceptowalne.

Jest jedna scena, w której dochodzi do prawie gwałtu, a już z całą pewnością można to zakwalifikować jako molestowanie seksualne. Ale że to dziewczyna napastuje chłopaka, to zdaje się wszystko jest w porządku, prawda?
Bo przecież, gdyby sytuacja była odwrotna, już by wszyscy krzyczeli #metoo! Ale to chłopak, to można machnąć ręką.
Obrzydliwe podwójne standardy. Przecież dziewczyna nie może zgwałcić chłopaka, bo mu "stanął"?

3/ Ukryta homofobia.
Noah jest dupkiem dla gejów, bo oczywście, on sam "nie jest" gejem.

4/ Noah.
Wcale nie jest uroczo niezręczny i zagubiony. On jest po prostu głupi w swoich zachowaniach. I nie mówcie mi, że takie są właśnie nastolatki. Nie są.
I może mi ktoś wytłumaczy, co jest takiego zabawnego w zwracaniu się do własnej matki per wiedźmo?

5/ Wspomniane wcześniej idiotyczne zwroty akcji.

Ojciec, który zniknął kilka lat wcześniej i rzekomo jest uznany przez matkę Noah za zmarłego, nagle wraca z Hiszpanii i chowa się w jakiejś przybudówce w ogrodzie Noah. I oczywiście jest ścigany za przekręty finansowe, więc policja go łapie i wsadza do paki.
Babcia z demencją ucieka z domu opieki. A pomaga jej w tym przyrodni brat Noah, o którego istnieniu Noah nie miał pojęcia.
Matka wiąże się z 19-latkiem, który chodzi z Noah do szkoły, i który okazuje się ojcem dziecka dziewczyny, któa chciała zgwałcić Noah.
Jest jeszcze po drodze szantażyk, ucieczka Noah z domu i parę innych wydarzeń z potencjalną miłością życia Noahego - Harrym.
Oczy mam już z tyłu głowy od ciągłego wywracania nimi z niedowierzaniem.
W ogóle większość tego, co się rozgrywa na kartach książki można podpiąć pod totalny nonsens.
Nie wiem, czy to swego rodzaju zapchaj dziury, byleby zapełnić jak najwięcej stron.

Pomijam sam język i styl, w jakim jest ta książka napisana, ponieważ czytałam polskie tłumaczenie, ale generalnie określę to jako marność - dziecinny, pośpieszny.

W każdym razie tak głupiej książki dawno już nie czytałam i NIE POLECAM jej nikomu, a już zwłaszcza nastolatkom.
Profile Image for Coenraad.
804 reviews41 followers
January 7, 2022
What a rollicking rollercoaster ride of a read! Simon James Green's debut is fast paced, full of attractive and interesting characters, spectacular scenes and pithy dialogue. It's a quick read because he manipulates chapter endings cleverly - you cannot not go on to the next chapter. The situations are convincing and spell-binding - I caught myself more than once wondering whether I may actually laugh at someone in this particular predicament (need one go further than the "boy problem" in the very first scene?!), and yet carried on laughing out loud regardless. In short: I liked the book a lot.

Green's story fulfils the criteria of the original ánd the present-day meaning of the term "comedy". For the ancient Greeks, a story started with a status quo, which then fell spectacularly apart, putting the characters through hell, and then towards the end things work out and a new equilibrium is reached. In the modern sense, the hell that Noah lives through provides a strong number of laughs per page for the reader.

If Green chose another tack, by taking it all seriously and delving into the characters' psyches in a deeply psychological and literary way, he could have produced a latter-day Werther, or a young gay Levin from Anna Karenina, or some such serious Bildungroman character, without changing any of the events or characters or relationships, but it would then have been a major tome of a book to slog through. The lightness of touch, the humour and humanity are all just right.

Noah is fifteen but looks a few years younger. His dad vanished when he was ten. His mother is on the dole and they are usually quite poor, but she earns extra money by performing Beyoncé tribute acts under a stage name. He loves his paternal grandmother, but she is developing dementia. So his status quo at the start of the novel is not great. Except for his best friend, Harry - their friendship is a calm port in the storm.

Then Noah becomes interested in Sophie, who invites him and Harry to a party as her "plus ones". At the party, after the self-brought booze ánd the punch have played havoc, Harry tells Noah he's gay - and then kisses Noah. With tongues. Noah was hoping to kiss Sophie, so ...

And then Jess, and then Josh, and Eric and Connor and Kyle and a myriad other characters play their respective roles to stir things up royally for Noah, mixing in a few alarming surprises on the way. As it is a comedy, we know there is a happy ending. For a long time, one wonders what this ending will be, but it is satisfying nonetheless (did I mention the tall, gym-toned (and very sensitive) male nurse?). However, it's a twenty-first century comedy - the last five sentences threaten the new equilibrium disastrously - or (I truly hope!) sets things in motion for the sequel. I'm sure Noah is strong enough for a next little journey through hell!

Noah se lewe in 'n klein Britse dorpie is nie waffers nie, maar dan gebeur daar skielik 'n klomp dinge gelyk wat 'n ongerieflike lewe hel maak. Dit sluit in dat hy 'n meisie ontmoet in wie hy geïnteresseerd is, net om te hoor hoe sy beste vriend vir hom sê dat hy gay is én verlief op Noah. Met 'n pa wat verdwyn het, 'n ma wat Beyoncé-nommers in kroeë uitvoer, 'n uiters lae status op die populariteitskaal en ander kompleksiteite raak dinge gou uiters ingewikkeld. Op die patroon van die moderne komedie is alles daarvan snaaks (hoewel 'n mens soms wonder of jy mág lag, maar dit keer jou nie!); op die patroon van die antieke komedie is daar 'n nuwe ekwilibrium wat ten slotte ontstaan. Maar hoe lank dit gaan hou voor Noah op 'n nuwe reis deur die Hel gedwing word, sal ons maar moet sien. Ek vertrou mnr. Green skryf reeds aan die opvolgroman!
Profile Image for Ulysses Dietz.
Author 11 books655 followers
August 13, 2017
Noah Can’t Even
By Simon James Green
Scholastic, 2017
Five stars

Noah Grimes is brilliant. And frustrating, to the point of my wanting to shake him. He overthinks everything. (“Spontaneity is a friend to no one.”) And, for all his obvious intelligence, he makes the worst possible decisions. But Noah is also an innocent on the level of Voltaire’s Candide (without, however, being an optimist – Noah is painfully cynical because of the crap hand he feels he’s been dealt). Nearly sixteen, he wants nothing more than to be a normal teenager. He wants a social life. He wants to be invited to parties. He thinks he wants a girlfriend. Maybe.

Oh, lord, I remember that. It makes me cringe, how clearly I remember that.

Noah’s mother is a mess. As far as he sees it, she is neglectful and indifferent. There is a good deal of evidence to support his opinion, but the author also puts in the book several moments that suggest otherwise. Clearly, Noah’s mother, Lisa, makes many bad choices, not the least of which is her Beyoncé tribute act under the nom de theatre of Ruby Devine. But Noah also has Harry, his best friend and fellow geek since forever. And then there’s his grandmother, Millie, who taught him genteel ways and worldly wisdom. Sadly, gran is in a care home (and not a nice one), as dementia steals her away from him bit by bit.

If you look at it, this story has a tragic foundation. It is through the genius of Simon James Green’s writing that Noah’s story is not only hilarious, but also uplifting. Unlike Candide, who constantly evokes “the best of all possible worlds” (which was Voltaire being snarky, because he was a total cynic, too), Noah sees his world as the worst possible world, from which he yearns to escape. He lives in a nothing town with an absent father and a negligent mother. He is bullied and ignored, and shelters his soul within elaborate game-playing scenarios with Harry.

When a totally cool, smart and popular girl named Sophie takes Noah and Harry to a party at a well-off girl’s house, Noah sees this as his ticket to normality.

“It was all happening. They were being illegal teenagers.”

Then, illuminated with alcohol, Noah’s world goes entirely off the rails, triggering a madcap series of events that go from bad to worse, as all of his dreams of normality come tumbling down around him.

“Was this what being a ‘normal’ teenager was meant to be like? Empty. Frightened. Alone.”

It would be heartbreaking, except for the author’s cleverness, which somehow keeps the comedy one step ahead of the tragedy, using Noah’s inherent innocence and misguided wisdom as fuel. Noah is so desperate for some idealized version of his life that he rejects the obvious solution right in front of him. It is a long and harrowing journey (during which you keep laughing out loud, even as tears threaten) that leads him back into the light.

I also make note of the publisher: Scholastic, who brought us the Harry Potter books. How did Simon Green wangle THAT deal? What makes a gay-themed Young Adult book palatable for a mainstream press, when J.K. Rowling couldn’t bring herself to put a gay character into any of her seven long volumes? This is a story about a boy coming out, and a teenager’s awkward obsession with sex (and trying to avoid discussing it) is a central thread in the plot. But somehow Green has produced something that slipped past the ingrained homophobia of our popular culture censors. I’m very grateful because, for all its intended silliness, there is a profoundly moving story of endurance and self-acceptance in “Noah Can’t Even” that will surely save the lives of a few teenagers going forward.
Profile Image for Michael.
656 reviews
July 13, 2018
Noah Can’t Even is a laugh out loud, cheer for someone, look around to see if someone is looking at you while you cry kind of book. Noah is kissed by his best friend Harry at a party and that, along with a billion crazy antics, blow up in his face, sending his world into a spiral.

Noah is probably on the autism spectrum, having massive social skill issues, obsessions with the way things need to be and with mystery detectives, a point that makes his unraveling the details of his predicament insanely funny. It has that Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime feel. He says things out loud that most say in their head. It could just be social skill issues as well. He is massively smart and is a good person, scared and confused.

Is he gay, who is his mom dating, is his dad really dead, will he pay blackmailers, why is he popular all of a sudden, and shouldn’t he try kissing a girl? The plot thickens.

The plot thickens is also the main flaw here. It’s a tad soap opera equivalent in how one thing after another befalls him, but would I read it if all was well? His situation is overwhelming for him but funny for us. It didn’t throw me out of enjoyment that it got melodramatic at points, because the author kept it funny and moving. He didn’t dwell on the down points long enough to be obviously ridiculous.

This is a fun coming out story with a character so endearing and frustrating you can’t help pulling for him to work it out and be alright.
Profile Image for Donna.
2,852 reviews34 followers
March 26, 2018
Yes, I gave this 5 stars, but NOT for the humor... which I, as a general rule, didn't find humorous! :(

I have one of those "mom" senses of humor, so... I mostly just felt sorry for Noah and wished he had a better life. But that didn't mean that I didn't enjoy the story... I did... VERY much! I look forward to reading Noah Never Could because even when you think things can't get any worse, they can... just ask Noah! I hope to see better things for he and Harry in the next installment of Noah's life!

This was one of the most convoluted stories that I have read in a while... and trust me, I read a lot! ;D

I absolutely loved Mr. Green's writing style and will be looking to see what other gems he has written for me to read!

Side note: I almost quit reading this at the end of the twelfth chapter... but, as I don't like to DNF a book, I pushed on and I am terribly glad that I did so! It was surprisingly amazing how well this story ended up working for me... I am still in shock, truth be told!!! :D

Side note to my first side note: I just wanted to say thank you for the review I read that brought this book to my attention! I think it is great that many rate books as they read them, but I have found hundreds of wonderful books by reading a review that has caught my eye and leads me to books that I wouldn't have otherwise even known about... I just wanted to throw it out there that leaving reviews are more important than you might imagine, not just to the authors... but to us readers also! *grin*
Profile Image for Jane (whatjanereads).
558 reviews103 followers
November 12, 2019
If you have the humour of a 12 year old boy (just like me) this book will be perfect for you. Noah is so awkward and there’s so much second hand embarrassment, I laughed my ass off!
And that’s what this book intends to be I think, just a funny story for young readers to enjoy. It’s not a story to educate.
If that’s enough for you, I think you can enjoy it. And I did!
Some situations were a bit over the top, but over all I totally fell in love with our weird bean Noah and I totally felt sorry for him on many levels.
Immediately going to start book two now.
Profile Image for Ben Howard.
1,019 reviews117 followers
March 23, 2022
3.5 stars

Simon James Green is one of my favourite authors so I want to get around to reading his back-list.

This was such a funny read. It was over the top and had surprising twists that I didn't see coming.

I wish it had bit more romance, but maybe the sequel with have that.
Profile Image for J.S. Young.
Author 2 books19 followers
June 22, 2017
Like I don't even know what to say. I finished it in one sitting sans the first chapter. So 300+ pages in one go. And I'm not even sure why. There is something about contemporaries that are strangely addictive. I'm not even sure if I really liked this book because I can't decide if it was meant to be funny or whether it was bad. I'm hoping it was aiming for comedy because let me tell you it's hilarious.

Noah thinks the best way to become popular is date Sophie, a popular girl. Then his best friend Harry kisses him at a party. That plot is very simple and actually the entirety of the book is pretty standard, sure some unusual plot twists and fun characters make it a little different but it's just a fluffy contemporary in the end. And after Way of Kings it's just what I needed.

Noah being so confused about his sexuality is the best thing about this book. It wasn't something that he really dwelt on despite him admiring the many males in his life many times over. He just can't accept it because he has this idea how life should be and I hardcore related to that. Like so badly. That was my problem with coming out, it didn't fit in how I thought my life should go. But him and Harry were destined to be together. They are so cute together. Sure they have a lot of downs in this book, mainly because Noah is a fucking social invalid. Like seriously I've never met a character who puts his foot in his mouth as often as Noah. He says stupid shit all the time and everyone is like what are you doing. It's so funny though he's so awkward and at times it is painful but I laughed so hard. So hard.

There is also the whole plot with his mum and I will say it was an interesting dynamic that I didn't feel was fleshed out enough. It felt very one-dimensional even with the shocking revelations of the letters and Eric. Just didn't quite work for me though I like the idea and how it could have been explored more. But that would be more serious and this is a light hearted book. I did like how it approached the Gran having dementia. It was tragic but it wasn't sad, it wasn't like an overly destructive thing. It was happening and they weren't happy about it but they keep going. Noah visits with her were adorable and made a difference from the drama of Noah's life.

Sophie was kind of irrelevant, sure she proves a good friend but seriously y'all hardly know each other. She was a kind hearted girl and I liked the fact she never wavered in her support of Noah. It's like she could tell he needed it. Though she did end up serving the straight person telling the non-straight person they aren't straight trope. Which I don't actually hate as a trope but eh for that.

Harry I think is my favourite character purely because he's an angel. He was protective of Noah he stood up for him and took the crap for it willingly. He stood by him until the memory stick fiasco. The scene where he says they aren't friends made me tear up because I'm weak. And the Connor bit made me tear up to, I wanted Harry to be happy. But with Noah. And thank god the ending was happy for them. Though massively cheesy, everyone got a happy end. Like what horseshit. Noah and Harry didn't need to declare themselves boyfriends or anything but it was still cute. Harry was just an angel, god I need a Harry.

Overall I think my main problem with this book was it's immaturity, it felt very juvenile in the way it dealt with some topics. Which I expected because Noah is socially inept, there were moments he would talk like an adult, a very wise one at that, but interacting with people were a no-no. It was fun and fluffy but still not sure if it was meant to be a comedy or not. Not perfect but certainly not a bad read.
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