“Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares” by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan


Title: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares
Author: Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Read Date: 27 January 2012
Goodreads Reading Progress Status Updates: Click here.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Review Preview: Excellent premise, wonderfully written, but a little too self-conscious to be truly romantic.

“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 New York Times 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?

Like Dash, who saw the red Moleskine notebook on the shelf and was intrigued enough by it to follow the instructions and then take it home, I bought this book on a whim after reading the synopsis and loving the premise.

Well, okay, it was that, but I also felt nostalgic. I seldom talk or write about very personal things, but I’ll break that rule today. See, I used to pass a notebook back-and-forth with my significant other because we don’t see each other as often as we would like. I loved when it came back to me with new drawings and doodles. (He’s an artist. Even his cartoon doodles are awesome. I can’t even draw a decent stick-figure image ala xkcd, so I mostly just wrote on the notebook.) One of us kept it for far too long once, so the exchange stopped. From then on, we just, as Lily calls it, “lived life outside of the notebook.” Now you know, and knowing is half the battle, but in this case, the war is over. I shall now go back to enforcing The Rule, and no questions will be answered. 😛

Enough about me, let’s talk about Dash.

Oh, Dash, are you for real? I found myself asking that question several times. I couldn’t help being aware that it was David Levithan talking rather than a 16-year-old boy, because Dash often sounds too mature. Or rather, his words and thoughts are mature but his actions are typical teen, so he ends up coming across as pretentious, even for someone who’s in the habit of reading J.D. Salinger and the Oxford English Dictionary.

Deep down, you see, I long to be arcane, esoteric. I’d love to confound people with their own language.

(Please, nobody say “he’s an old soul” or I’ll throw a tantrum and a couple of Horcruxes aimed at your head.)

In theory, Dash could easily have been the “boy inside my head, who is exactly who I want him to be,” but I still couldn’t quite fall in love with him.

And then there’s Lily. She’s more grounded than Dash, even though she’s Disney-Channel-Sitcom-Sidekick Quirky. Or Luna-Lovegood-Quirky. Lily and Luna. Lily Luna. Lily Luna Potter. Haha!

I’ve always resented Hermione, because I wanted to be her so badly and she never seemed to appreciate as much as I thought she should that she got to be her. She got to live at Hogwarts and be friends with Harry and kiss Ron, which was supposed to happen to me.

(See? A Harry Potter reference!)

I didn’t find Dash and Lily’s romance thrilling, sadly. In my native language: hindi ako kinilig. They don’t even come close to how I feel about Deryn and Alek from Leviathan (oh how I embarrassed myself squeeing loudly while reading Goliath) or Puck and Sean from The Scorpio Races. I’m not sure if this is because I’m privy to both Dash’s and Lily’s thoughts that there isn’t much of a mystery to keep things exciting anymore, or if it’s because they and the book itself just seem so self-conscious of this entire “epistolary flirtation.”

So what kept me reading wasn’t Dash or Lily or Dash and Lily; it was the Book of Dares–the anticipation of what audacious quest they would come up with next and how they will eventually meet in person. The dares themselves are fun, especially the ones set in The Strand, the video store, Macy’s, and FAO Schwarz.

Oh, and I also love the more interesting secondary characters, like Lily’s gay brother Langston, her grandfather, her great aunt and numerous cousins and uncles, and Dash’s bestfriend Boomer.

But the real draw of this book is Cohn and Levithan’s gift with words. There are a lot of wonderful and thoughtful passages about love, relationships, literature and language, that I used up my remaining Book Hamster sticky tabs to mark my favorites.

But isn’t this a dance? Isn’t all of this a dance? Isn’t that what we do with words? Isn’t that what we do when we talk, when we spar, when we make plans or leave it to chance? Some of it’s choreographed. Some of the steps have been done for ages. And the rest — the rest is spontaneous. The rest has to be decided on the floor, in the moment, before the music ends.

I admit that much of my disappointment comes from expecting too much from this book and probably from thinking too much about it. You might even say I’m doing a Dash. 😛 But if you want to read something light and fun and rather bookish (in a good way) and fanciful (because it’s a beautiful word), or if you want to feel like it’s Christmas any time of the year, then give Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares a try; it goes well with a plate of cookies and a cup of English Breakfast.

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