Book review: Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

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I was deep in the throes of college when Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares came out. Back in 2010, I was probably doing something really ridiculous like taking multiple literature classes in the same semester or working three part-time jobs. Definitely not a lot of time for reading YA contemporaries.

But somehow I managed to notice this book, probably because it’s by two of my favorite authors from my high school years: David Levithan and Rachel Cohn. I’ve previously talked about how much I love Levithan’s books. I’ve read a lot of them. I’d like to read a lot more. I feel pretty similar about Cohn. I was a big fan of her Cyd Charisse trilogy back in the day. I also loved Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, which was another book co-written by these authors.

Lucky for me, my library had an available copy of Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, so finally, after all this time, I was able to read it.

And it was okay.

I guess.

The idea of the book is really engaging. I would give it three stars for that alone.

Dash finds a mysterious red notebook shelved in The Strand, a bookstore in New York City. (Which I still have yet to visit, despite having probably walked by it many times. Note to self: Get to The Strand.) The notebook dares him to find some books to piece together a message, at which point he begins exchanging the notebook with Lily, its owner. The two of them dare each other to do increasingly outlandish things. Find a specific pair of reindeer mittens at Macy’s. Go to FAO Schwartz at the height of Christmas shopping. Sneak out of the house to go to a midnight show at a bar. (They’re sixteen years old.) So on, so forth. For a good half of the book or so, they haven’t met. Their attraction is built solely on words.

Where it falls apart is in the characters.

Dash is a pretentious hipster, who, at sixteen years old, is exhausted with life. He’s so fed up with everything and everyone, especially his parents. He hates Christmas. He is so happy to have fooled his divorced parents into leaving him alone for the holidays. His parents don’t talk, so his dad thinks he’s with his mom and his mom thinks he’s with his dad. Both parents are away on vacations with their new significant others. He’s often referred to as “snarly” by the people Lily employs to pass along her messages.

Lily is a cinnamon roll in human form. She loooves Christmas. She loves puppies. She actually likes hanging out with her great aunt and her grandpa. She sees the good in everybody. She doesn’t have a lot of friends, but she gets along with everyone. She’s easily excited, to the point of being nicknamed “Shrilly.” Lily’s parents are in Fiji for the holidays, and her reaction is the polar opposite of Dash’s – she’s miserable about it.

You might think that opposites attract. You might think that this relationship would work.

For me, it didn’t.

Dash is the emotional equivalent of an elderly man. Lily is the emotional equivalent of a child. What do they have to talk about? (Just their mutual love of books.) What do they have in common? (Books.) Sure, it’s romantic to think that a love of books trumps everything else, but it’s just not realistic. One day, these kids are going to have to talk about something other than their mutual love of The Strand or whatever, and their little bubble is going to shatter.

For a quick book that takes place over a couple days, it was nice. But I have no faith that these two would still be together next week, let alone a few months down the line.

It’s a cute book, and a very quick read. I just wish Dash and Lily would have seemed more suited for each other.

Final rating:

★★★☆☆

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