posted at Monday, November 26th, 2012 at 5:00 AM | Reviews, Young Adult
Published by Knopf BFYR on October 26, 2010
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
“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 ofNick & 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?
Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.
First Sentence: “Imagine this: You’re in your favorite bookstore, scanning the shelves.”
Do you ever really enjoy a book, but also feel like you don’t have a ton of complimentary things to say about it at the same time? This happens to me every so often, and Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares is most definitely one such book for me. While I turned pages excitedly and squeed over the concept, a lot of the execution left me seriously cold and rolling my eyes.
Starting with the good stuff, Dash & Lily’s hooked me immediately. Cohn & Levithan pretty much guarantee that no bookish person will be able to stop reading within the first couple of sentences. While perusing shelves in the Strand, Dash discovers a red Moleskine notebook tucked in among editions of one of his favorite books, Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. Inside this notebook, he finds a little scavenger hunt of sorts, which takes him around the bookstore from awkward book to awkwarder book, in an effort to see if he just might be the right guy for the notebook’s author Lily.
Turns out, though, that Lily was sort of put up to this little endeavor, largely out of the boredom of a holiday spent without her family (all off on romantic endeavors on their own). Dash, also left to his own devices for the Christmas holiday, instead of leaving a way to contact him as instructed, leaves Lily instructions for some dares of his own. For several days, they travel to some of the most famous of New York’s sites, while falling in like with the person on the other side of the notebook. This whole concept was just completely adorable, and what bookish person hasn’t wanted to find someone via the medium of bonding over a shared favorite book? This book also makes you feel like you’re traveling around NYC yourself, which I always really love.
While the writing is quite well done and full of brilliant observations, I just felt like Cohn and Levithan were trying to hard. Dash and Lily both failed to really coalesce into actual people for me, as though the characters took a backseat to highlighting just how clever the authors are. Since I’ve read books by both of them and I know they don’t always write this way, I’m not sure what happened here, but it just didn’t have a natural cadence.
Dash made more sense as a character, and seemed much more consistent as a whole than Lily. However, he’s also incredibly obnoxious. Basically, the whole time I was hoping they would meet and hate each other (which would have been really believable). I would even prefer Lily hooking up with Edgar, the smarmy guy who was an accessory to the tragic show-and-tell murder of her gerbil in elementary school, than with Dash. I just found him incredibly obnoxious and superior, the stereotypical annoying hipster. Also, everyone Lily asks describes Dash solely as ‘snarly,’ but when she meets him, she doesn’t mention that at all, which struck me as hugely inconsistent. All of a sudden it’s all about how he rocks a fedora and how incredibly gorgeous his blue eyes are. Changing his character entirely to sell the big ending doesn’t work for me.
Lily, on the other hand, feels completely thrown together. She has so many unique component parts that do not seem to glue together into a person. For all that she has all the idiosyncrasies that should combine into a personality, she always bored me. Other than the filling out of the journal, she comes across as extremely young, constantly throwing temper tantrums (Shrilly), has no friends, which she seems hardly to notice, and doesn’t make smart choices (like wearing one shoe and one boot around so her snarly prince can find her). Worse still, the journal, which would seem to evince what a clever person she is, was not even her idea in the first place. Her own challenges were much more poorly conceived than the original created by someone else. Dash annoyed me and Lily bored me.
The best character by far in this piece is Lily’s incredibly sassy aunt, who she calls Mrs. Basil E., for the sassy older woman in Konigsburg’s classic. Mrs. Basil will say absolutely anything, such as when she interrogates Dash about his intentions (frankly, they have more chemistry than he and Lily do). Lily’s aunt will happily assist in any sort of fiendish plot and says things like “I never married because I was too easily bored” (154). Now, this is my kind of woman. If only she had had a larger part in the book.
Dash & Lily’s is fun, no question, but I feel like it could easily have been so much better. In the end, it’s just hard to sell a romance novel where I don’t see the couple lasting for longer than a week, because Dash will find the bloom is off the Lily within a matter of hours, I suspect.
“‘If you tell me, I will leave you alone,’ I said. ‘And if you don’t tell me, I am going to grab the nearest ghostwritten James Patterson romance novel and I am going to follow you through this store reading it out loud until you relent. Would you prefer me to read from Daphne’s Three Tender Months with Harold or Cindy and John’s House of Everlasting Love? I guarantee, your sanity and your indie street cred won’t last a chapter. And they are very, very short chapters.'”