Book reviews, musings and waffle from a British lit addict

Festive YA Book Review: ‘Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares’ by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis courtesy of GoodReads

“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Review

I read *tons* of good reviews for this last Christmas but for what I’m sure was a very good reason at the time, didn’t get round to reading it.  Actually, I think it’s because it was released in the US in October 2011 but not released over in the UK until October 2012.  I could have still grabbed an eBook copy (I think…) but after January rolled around, I put it out of my  mind.  No matter how much I love Love Actually (which is a lot…), I only ever watch it in December if I’m feeling in need of a little festive cheer.  I neglected Dash & Lily all year for the same reason.  The happy news?  I am wise and saving this for when Christmas sparkle was seeping its way back into the world was perfect.

I was an easy sell for the first few chapters because they were set in a bookshop that I dragged (almost literally) Boyfriend into when we were in New York, Strand Book Store.  I could have spent days amongst its 18 miles of books and been perfectly happy.  I was so excited about reading about somewhere that I’d actually been that I would have forgiven a great deal.  Sure, I’d been cracking a few smiles but would they continue when I was no longer giddy on happy memories?  Thankfully, yes.  For the most part.

Having two authors writing the two characters sounded like a great idea but I wasn’t expecting it to work as well in practice as it actually does.  I obviously preferred one style over the other (Levithan’s, if you’re wondering) but the shift between chapters was never particularly disorientating or jarring.  Both characters have a similarly sarcastic sense of humour and both are clearly more intelligent than the vast majority of teenagers.  Dash (written by Levithan), however, hates Christmas and all of the “forced” joviality and is generally a lot more cynical; Lily (written by Cohn) is a huge fan of everything festive and comes across as a lot more open-hearted, if a little naive.  Personally, I fall into the latter camp and LOVE everything about Christmas but even I could appreciate that Dash’s cynicism actually stops the whole novel becoming too sickly sweet.  The balance means that Dash and Lily’s escapades made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, grin like a moron and feel in desperate need of some tinsel.

There are downsides to the book (Lily’s first experience of schnapps being one for me) but on the whole I was more than happy to overlook them and focus on the fun!  The characters also seemed a little older to me than their alleged 15 years (which is something I have seen other reviewers mention too, so I’m not just being old!) – they both have a pretty sophisticated way of speaking for teenagers (remember Dawson’s Creek? Like that) and are running around New York at Christmas time largely unchecked.  Like when I watched Dawson’s Creek, however, I was happy to go with it and gladly followed Dash and Lily around Manhattan in pursuit of a happy ending.

Overall:  Not a perfect book but an excellent seasonal interlude.  There’s a whole host of kooky family members and friends that pop up (it is Christmas, after all…) and it’s just so warm that it’s almost impossible not to end up smiling.  Like all good romantic comedies, there are ups and there are downs but there’s always enough ups to leave you feeling good about the world.  Enjoy with a blanket, mulled wine and a mince pie 🙂


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Date finished:  28 October 2012
Format:  eBook
Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review
Genre:  YA fiction; CHRISTMAS fiction
Published (in the UK): by Harlequin (UK) Limited in October 2012