Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares (by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan)

20 11 2011

Whenever Rachel Cohn and David Levithan decide to collaborate the cat feels like a kid in a toy store. There are always so many deliciously drawn side-characters  and so many extraordinary places (usually in New York) to discover that it’s hard not feel a little bit giddy with anticipation! Plus, toy store execs are usually cunning enough to make the store light up and sparkle even more during the holiday season. And if giddy excitement weren’t enough of a incentive to read this book, suffice it to say that Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares is yet another proof that a good book doesn’t need anything more than a simple premise (Boy Meets Girl)  in a simple setting  (a city – New York – during  the Christmas season).

A few days before Christmas, Dash – Snarly, anti-Christmas, a loner in his own way – is looking forward to spending the horrid Christmas days the way he prefers it: alone and perusing the miles of bookshelves at the Strand. At the same time, Lily – Shrilly, timid and in love with the spirit of Christmas – is devastated because her parents have left her and her brother alone at Christmas to go on a belated honeymoon.  Lily’s brother would rather spend time with his new boyfriend than babysit his sister and decides she needs some action in the romance department and has her leave a red Moleskine notebook in the Strand with a dare for the finder of the notebook. When Dash finds the notebook, he sets the tone of the entire book, reciprocating Lily’s dare (though the first dare wasn’t really Lily’s, she goes along with it willingly) and setting a few rules of his own. The result: a bunch of unconventional dares, coincidences, trips and scavenger hunts all over New York, and signs of hope of things to come…all in true Christmas spirit, of course. Macy’s during the holiday season, wax museums, movie screenings of Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, militant soccer moms… somehow it all comes together nicely.

Just like in Boy Meets Boy, David Levithan shows that he’s not just a skilful wordmeister, but also a hopeless romantic (don’t you just want to give him a big hug for it? Somehow his writing has that effect on the cat…). And indeed, the list of quotable sentences from Dash’s scenes is endless, and luckily, they serve to develop Dash’s character. Despite the fact that Dash is such a Christmas-hater and seems to revel in his own cynicism, he’s also just a boy looking for that one special person: “Somebody who wouldn’t judge another for the prepositions they dangle, or their run-on sentences, and who in turn wouldn’t be judged for the snobbery of their language etymology inclinations.” Dash thinks – hopes – he has found that person in Lily (who he has never met), but the path to finding that special someone is full of quirky Great Aunts, Spanish ex-girlfriends, and hipster Strand employees. And Lily, being a real girl, rather than a girl in his head, may or may not meet his expectations .

Cohn’s Lily on the other hand, shows a sort of naive innocence which, written by any other writer, would feel fake or incongruous , but as written by Cohn feels like the most appropriate counterpart to Dash’s often loftier-than-thou language use, witty intellectualism and disillusioned Holden Caulfield behavior.

“Luckily, I always travel with a book, just in case I have to wait in line for Santa, or some such inconvenience”,  Dash muses.  If there’s one book that you should have with your during this holiday season it’s Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, the perfect book to make the most cynical of stooges into a sappy romantic.

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16 04 2013
Very LeFreak (by Rachel Cohn) | Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] Cohn came to the cat by way of David Levithan. Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares are up there with some of the coolest, hippest, and genuinely touching books in contemporary YA. […]

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