Thursday, December 23, 2010

review : dash and lily's book of dares

dash and lily's book of dares, rachel cohn & david levithan (a&u in australia)

on the eve of christmas eve it is probably the perfect time for this one. given that i work in retail my emotions are rawther like dash's at the present - 'might as well have gift-wrapped my face and pumped carbon dioxide in.' (p27 - when dash is faced with a christmas time visit to macy's) but i also love singing christmas carols, like lily, so not all is lost.

dash and lily are another pair of quirky and smart nyc post-punk, mostly straight-edge, literary hipsters from the figurative moleskine notebooks of noo yawkers rachel cohn and david levithan, them what brought you nick and norah's infinite playlist and naomi and ely's no kiss list. in this installment our protagonists are lonely teens at christmas time in the big apple - dash by choice and lily by circumstance. they come together via a red moleskine notebook of clues left at the strand bookstore by lily's brother langston (well, lily leaves it there, but langston kinda forced her to) in an effort to force lily to make friends so he is free to spend christmas in blissful lust with his new boyfriend benny. and it's dash who finds the notebook, completes the initial dares and builds on it - this is quite a hilarious caper story which takes our protagonists to the aforementioned macy's in the mad christmas rush, to madame tussauds, to bad christmas movies, fao schwartz for secret muppet-building projects and even out to brooklyn to see impressive christmas lights.

this was me with jo horniman's mahalia at the strand.--->

levithan and cohn have such a delightful energy to their books. they write kooky characters extremely well and have peopled dash and lily with a wonderful support cast that revolve around the main characters to perfection. though it did feel like the story had one too many false endings/climaxes the energy kept up throughout and it's a very satisfying read. sweet and funny, about books and book nerds complete with salinger-love, gay characters and old people (love old people) and did i mention it's set in motherflipping N.Y.C.?

a few little quibbly things, though: dash and lily are both so painfully selfaware and a little sickeningly overly indie-quirk (ie. lily says she's not an ironic hipster wearing her black rim glasses, but a true nerd - except THIS IS SOMETHING ONLY AN IRONIC HIPSTER WOULD SAY) and these kids being too hip to drink (dash) and swear (lily) makes me feel like i'm being judged a bit (it was the teeny downside to nick and norah as well, while i'm being honest) and dash's page 29 diatribe to the woman buying the mittens at macy's made me kind of hate him for a minute. what if she was buying them in an ironic way? but indeed, what the fuck does it matter if she's buying something he hates? fuck off indeed, dashmeister. plus there was one wee plot goof (anyone else pick it up?) and a couple of odd typographical glitches (which didn't really bother me, but given that i learned proofreading this year i'm feeling a little smug i picked up).

but i do just have to add that lily was the most hilarious character, absolutely off-the-wall crazy! even though i did wonder what she might have rated on the asberger's spectrum i absolutely loved her enthusiasm and charm and am particularly fond of her alter-ego, shrilly. i also loved her boots and the way she says "hello puppy" to all dogs (because that is what i do too). the way she dressed reminded me of teen fashion blogger tavi.* dash was a little snarly for me, i think.

dash and lily's book of dares has great heart and mucho humour. i did really, really like it and would recommend it to all those who like their books smart; your too-cool-for-school teenager will embrace it, so long as you don't force them to read it. let them discover it for themselves...

it made me laugh a lot and feel all christmassy inside.

*i stole this photo - let me know if i ought to take it down, tavi!


  1. loved reading your thoughts on this. i haven't read it yet (am planning on it) but your review sounds exactly how i imagine it to be.

    i love so many of your lines in this review. you have such an awesome flavour here :)

    i also love joanne horniman but haven't revisited her for a while...


  2. Your last paragraph (two paragraphs) pretty much sum up how I feel about this one too. It's smart and funny and gave me that warm fuzzy glow of book-love.

    I did kind of dislike Dash at the very beginning for having tickets on himself (intellectually), but eventually the fact that he's got so much love for literature got me past that. I liked Shrilly too. (Possibly because I could relate.)

    Oh, and I did *not* spot the plot goof. This doesn't surprise me. What was it?!

  3. nomes - hope you get around to reading it, this one was a lot of fun.

    lauren - i definitely warmed to dash (although got angry at him again with all the love/whiteboard thing - but that was just my cynic coming out again) and loved that he loved words so much!

    plot goof was pretty small. basically dash leaves the notebook in the christmas stocking at macy's, lily takes it to the cinema with the cookies, dash goes to collect it with boomer and says something like 'the notebook was right where i left it'...but maybe i missed something...perhaps he saw it before they saw the weird stapler movie and then picked it up after? i should go back and check!

    am reading david levithan's newie at the moment, lover's dictionary, and there is really something lovely about him...

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  5. Sweet, funny and touching, Dash & Lily's Book of Dares had me laughing and crying throughout. I absolutely adored this book from beginning to end and I have been gushing about it to everyone I know since I finished it. I highly recommend this book to readers of all ages. A must read!

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