Dash and Lily's Book of Dares
By: Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Published by: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date: October 26, 2010
I received this book as a Christmas gift
Recommended for: Fans of indie teenage flicks, quirky romance, and sarcasm
In their third collaboration, Cohn and Levithan present another clever New York romance. Levithan writes the chapters narrated by Dash, a “bookish” 16-year-old spending Christmas break alone. He finds a red moleskin notebook amid the shelves of the Strand bookstore. “Are you going to be playing for the pure thrill of unreluctant desire?” asks Cohn’s Lily in the first coded message of the notebook, with an invitation to respond. Lily is aglow with the yuletide and devastated that her parents are spending the holidays in Fiji. Armed with anonymity, Dash and Lily exchange the notebook in various locations around the Big Apple, filling it with their greatest hopes and deepest fears, and ultimately find themselves falling in love. Not surprisingly, the young pair’s perceptions of each other don’t entirely reflect reality; Dash’s ex asks if he is in love with the girl writing in the book or the girl he is picturing in his head. The spirit of the season amplifies Dash and Lily’s loneliness and heightens the connection between them, in another surefire hit from the creators of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2006). Grades 9-12.
I'm fairly certain I'm in the minority here, but this book just didn't do it for me. While it did offer up a lot of wise observations on the nature of falling in love and expectations, I found it wanting in several key areas. First of all the characters. I thought Lily (referred to as "Shrilly" due to her habit of high pitched freak-outs) could have benefited from some quality meds. While she is a sweet girl, she often came across as being a little on the unstable side. Witness: while at a movie theater, 2 moms tell Lily her boots and hat are adorable and she replies by shrieking "I AM NOT ADORABLE! I'M JUST LILY!" Who does this????? No one I want to know. There is also a scene in the book where Lily runs around town wearing one sneaker and one boot. While it's supposed to be cute and quirky it just came across as really weird to me. I'm all for being yourself and not trying to fit the mold. But please wear matching shoes.
Dash. Oh Dash. So much sarcasm and pretentiousness. Nearly everything he said was overly verbose and again, I know no one who talks like that ALL the time. Not to mention I thought he was kind of rude. Witness: while at Macy's, he sees a middle aged woman select some christmas themed mittens and actually says this to her, "Really? Aesthetic and utilitarian considerations aside, those mittens don't particularly make sense. Why would you want to hitchhike to the North Pole? Isn't the whole gimmick of Christmas that there's home delivery? You get up there, all you're going to find is a bunch of exhausted grumpy elves. Assuming, of course, that you accept the mythical presence of a workshop up there, when we all know there isn't even a pole at the North Pole, and if global warming continues, there won't be any ice either."
WTF? I get that it's supposed to be witty, but all his little rants managed to do was make me not really like him very much. Two characters I don't care for=me not really caring if they end up with each other or not. Now add to that some incredibly unrealistic situations and you have a book that just never grabbed me emotionally.
There WERE some moments that worked for me....mostly when the characters were reflecting on love and how our expectations can color our feelings. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes....
"We had never lied to each other. But we had never gone out of our way to reveal ourselves either."
"You think fairy tales are only for girls? Here's a hint-ask yourself who wrote them. I assure you it wasn't just the women. It's the great male fantasy-all it takes is one dance to know that she's the one.All it takes is the sound of her song from the tower, or a look at her sleeping face. And right away you know-this is the girl in your head, sleeping or dancing or singing in front of you. Yes, girls want their princes, but boys want their princesses just as much."
Moments like that were where I thought the book really shined. It just wasn't enough to make up for the unrealistic characters, dialogue and situations for me.