June 10, 2011

Review: Dash and Lily's Book of Dares

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

“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.”

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?

There aren’t many books like Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares out there, which is one of the reasons why reading it was such a great pleasure. If I could describe it in a sentence I would say Dash and Lily is an uncommon story of an uncommon relationship coming out of uncommon circumstances, but that would not really do it justice because it’s so much more than just that.

Dash and Lily was written collaboratively by David Levithan and Rachael Cohen. Levithan wrote Dash’s chapters and Cohen wrote Lily’s. For any other story this writing style would probably seem disconnected and erratic, especially with two authors with strong individual writing styles, but because Dash and Lily spend the majority of the story in their own separate worlds, this type of collaboration really works. The transitions from each chapter are seamless and flow very well into each other.

Dash and Lily meet and get to know one another through the words in a red leather moleskin notebook, an “experiment” concocted by Lily’s brother, Langston, to help alleviate her boredom during their winter holiday break while their parents are vacationing in Fiji. Each entry in the journal gives the other person just a bit more insight into each other. Both Dash and Lily are generally shy people who keep mostly to themselves but through the notebook and each dare that is detailed in each entry, they break out of their shell and learn things about themselves as well as each other.

I loved like 99% of this book. Before I talk about the 1% I didn’t like I need to reiterate how wonderful the rest of the story is. The characters are well thought out and very multi-dimensional. They each have an interesting backstory which lends itself well in developing their characteristics. The supporting players around them are fantastic as well, especially the various members of Lily’s eccentric family. My favorite supporting player was definitely Dash’s best friend, the adorable dim-witted Boomer. You can always count on Boomer for a good laugh with lines such as these gems:

“So I’ll see you the day after Christmas for that party, right?” Boomer asked. “Is that the twenty-seventh?”
“The twenty-sixth.”
“I should write it down.”
He grabbed a pen off the table by our door and wrote THE 26TH on his arm.

“Hey Boomer,” I said. “How would you feel about doing something for me at FAO Schwarz?”
“The toy store?” he asked.
“No, the apothecary.”
He looked at me blankly.
“Yes, the toy store.”
Be prepared to laugh while reading this book. Not just chuckle silently to yourself, no. I mean blow out Cocoa Krispies through your nose kind of laughter. Consider yourselves warned. 

The heart of Dash and Lily is, of course, their journal entries to each other. Each one heartfelt and revealing, you anticipate their written words almost as much as you look forward to them finally meeting. And just like in real life when they finally do meet the question of whether or not someones expectations truly live up to who they really are is explored. Because you really want them to be that one person for the other but are they? This leads into the 1% that I didn’t really like about this book. There are circumstances that bring people together or make them experience an epiphany of great emotional realization about each other and those are really and truly magical moments when done right. I have to say that the one flaw in this story is a big one and it centers around what I consider a truly ridiculous event that occurs during one of their face-to-face encounters. I’m not sure why this hung me up so much, probably because it was beyond ridiculous that it was unbelievably hokey. I was almost offended that something so lame could appear in my fabulously written book. That being said, the good things in Dash and Lily far far outweighs its flaws and I encourage  you to give this book a try, it’s a great feel good story and it will definitely put a smile on your face. 

This excerpt below is one of the reasons why I think this book is a real gem. This conversation had me laughing out loud...in public: 
"So what else can I tell you?" I asked. "I mean, to get you to reveal Lily to me."
She triangled her fingers under her chin. "Let's see. Are you a bed wetter?"
"Am I a...?"
"Bed wetter. I am asking if you are a bed wetter."
I knew she was trying to get me to blink. But I wouldn't.
"No, ma'am. I leave my beds dry."
"Not even a little drip every now and then?"
"I'm trying hard to see how this is germane."
"I'm gauging your honesty. What is the last periodical you read methodically?"
"Vogue. Although, in the interest of full disclosure, that's mostly because I was in my mother's bathroom, enduring a rather long bowel movement. You know, the kind that requires Lamaze."
David Levithan and Rachel Cohen have collaborated on several books including the vastly popular, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist which has been adapted into a feature film. They have also written solo and with other authors as well. 

Happy Reading,


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