Monday, December 24, 2012

Review: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares
By Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Knopf Books for Young Readers

To Sum It Up:

Dash and Lily are complete strangers to each other, but they’re about to meet in a most unusual way. Right before Christmas, Dash finds a red Moleskine notebook on a shelf in the Strand Book Store in Manhattan that contains a quest. On a whim, he accepts the mystery author’s challenge, kicking off a back and forth game of dares with the notebook’s owner, Lily. The two are sent on tasks all over the city, and with every exchange of the notebook, they seem to become a little better acquainted. Pouring your heart out to a stranger on paper is one thing, though; meeting in person is another thing entirely, with no guarantee that the person from the red Moleskine notebook is the same person outside of its pages. Both Dash and Lily realize this and wonder if it would be best to continue just knowing each other through the notebook.


Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares was such a fun read, and it’s simply perfect for Christmas. I grew up in New York City and have many fond memories of past holidays there, so the setting alone was enough to make me fall in love with this book. Rachel Cohn and David Levithan do a magnificent job of bringing the city at Christmas time to life, from the crowds at Macy’s Herald Square and FAO Schwarz to the decorated houses of Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights neighborhood. For anyone who’s never visited New York during the holiday season, reading this book is probably the next best thing to being there.

I loved the novel’s original premise and its rich cast of quirky characters. The two narrators, Dash and Lily, are brought together by a red notebook containing a dare. The scheme was concocted by Lily’s older brother, Langston, in an attempt to help push his little sister out into the world more. It’s Dash who finds the notebook on a shelf in the Strand Book Store and decides to play along. The tasks themselves are quite funny from the outset; in order to decipher the first set of clues, Dash has to find some rather eyebrow-raising titles among the Strand’s stacks. Later on, there’s a Cinderella-esque incident involving a majorette boot getting left behind that still makes me smile just thinking about it. I found this book hilarious; it perfectly suited my sense of humor. Dash’s frequent use of sarcasm was very welcome.

Lily is such a sweet, bubbly character. She exudes an optimism that is very endearing and that I would love to have. Dash, who takes a more cynical view of the world, is the perfect foil for her. Whereas Lily is sheltered by her extremely protective, extended family, Dash’s divorced parents haven’t spoken to each other in years. This story could have gone the trite, opposites attract route, but fortunately, it doesn’t. Cohn and Levithan keep the narrative fresh with an ideal balance between poignancy and lightheartedness.

I’m not big on holiday movies where at the end, everyone is standing in front of a fireplace wearing matching sweaters and huge grins while holding mugs of hot chocolate. I definitely have more of a Dash-like outlook on life, but this book really made me feel, well, happy, after reading it. There’s no need to worry that Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares is all syrup, though; there’s enough snark, especially from Dash, to prevent it from becoming schmaltzy. The novel puts you in a festive mood without giving you the sensation that you’ve indulged in eating too many holiday sweets.

All in All:

I borrowed this from the library but need to buy my own copy so that I can start a new holiday tradition of reading it every December.

Favorite Quotes:

“For me, danger might be getting out from under the protective cloak of my family and venturing into the world more on my own, even though I don’t know what—or who—awaits me.”
Lily, Chapter 12

“‘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.’”
Dash, Chapter 11


  1. Sounds like a great book for around this time of year. Maybe next year in December I will read this book. :) Great review.

    1. This has become my go-to book for getting into the holiday spirit. I hope you do give it a read next December! :)

  2. This is really a perfect Christmas book. I loved Dash. He is awesome,and lily and dash really make sense together. Great Review! :)

    1. I loved Dash, too! I liked his chapters slightly more than Lily's because his sarcasm just cracked me up.

  3. I'm so glad you loved this one! It's one of my favorite Christmas reads and I read it earlier this year, but will definitely read it again! Wonderful review :)

    1. This is on my buy list. I can picture myself grabbing it off the shelf year-round to reread my favorite quotes (and there are a lot of them!).

  4. I totall y forgot about that Dash quore. Priceless! Made me want to read this again. Thanks for the great review.

    1. It was so hard picking just one Dash quote to highlight, but that one made me laugh the hardest. I loved Dash's wit!

  5. Really great review! I loooove this book :D I totally could feel the Christmas atmosphere in Dash & Lily's. I love everything about this book, one of my favorites! Hope you have a great holiday!
    Little Book Star

    1. This book painted such a vivid picture of Christmas in NYC that it was practically like being there in person. Happy holidays to you, too, Leigh!


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