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A Reader of Fictions: Review: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Monday, November 26, 2012

Review: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

Authors: Rachel Cohn, David Levithan
Pages: 260
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Source: Own

Description from Goodreads:
“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 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?

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.

Rating: 3/5

Favorite Quote: "'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.'"

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Blogger Bekka said...

This book only annoyed me. For the first few chapters it was okay, but then the characters bugged the hell out of me. Dash was such a hipster. His whole existence was dedicated to showing us all how cool he is. And Lily felt like a ten year old child to me. I put it down about 40% in.

November 26, 2012 at 12:11 AM  
Blogger Ashley said...

I'm glad I read your review even if I find it a little disappointing. I find the premise really intriguing, but if the characters aren't fully fleshed out I doubt I'll enjoy it. I might still give it a try, but it won't be moved to the top of my list.

November 26, 2012 at 2:54 AM  
Blogger trayche said...

I will give this books a try in few weeks (before New Year). The idea seems interesting, plus it's a short book :)

November 26, 2012 at 9:15 AM  
Blogger Jenni said...

huh, I like the idea behind this book but am so saddened that the characters didn't hit their mark. In a novel like this I think that the characters have to be ones that you believe and connect with. About the aunt, that's funny, I have read quite a few books where I didn't like the MC's but loved the kooky aunt. There's always a kooky aunt!

November 26, 2012 at 12:04 PM  
Blogger Audra said...

So, I'm totally predisposed to hate this book because these authors seem to have a Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman thing, and I'm deeply possessive of my Hammett and Hellman.

November 26, 2012 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

I love the idea of this book, but if you don't like the characters, I probably won't either...and without characters I can't see me loving this one.

*sad face*

November 26, 2012 at 1:41 PM  
Blogger Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer said...

This sounds like it was a fun, quick read bummer you did not connect with the characters..its sad because then you never really connect with the story. Awesome review!

November 26, 2012 at 2:09 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

You explained my thoughts PERFECTLY! I felt the same about this book. I just couldn't see their relationship last after the book ended and that was really disappointing for me. I *kinda* felt that way with Amy and Roger's Epic Detour (http://blueskyshelf.blogspot.com/2012/11/review-amy-and-rogers-epic-detour-by.html)

November 26, 2012 at 2:23 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Ha, he seriously is a hipster. I really didn't want him to be happy, and, honestly, he doesn't want that either, because then he'll lose his hipster street cred. Lily DOES read like a child. NO KID WANTS TO GO ON THEIR PARENT'S HONEYMOON.

November 27, 2012 at 8:25 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

It's still worth checking out, but don't get your hopes up too high.

November 27, 2012 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

It's a good book to read for the new year, and short sure doesn't hurt!

November 27, 2012 at 8:28 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

The kooky aunt or sassy grandma are seriously the best characters in a lot of ya fiction these days. Maybe because they tend to be present, unlike the parents?

November 27, 2012 at 8:29 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oh, I got the Hammett reference, but I'm not really familiar with Lillian Hellman, so I missed that one. Gross! I have the feeling they're supposed to be a big time love then, and just no.

November 27, 2012 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I'm sorry, dear. I wish I had better news for you. It was still entertaining, but...

November 27, 2012 at 8:31 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

It was quick and fun, at least!

November 27, 2012 at 8:31 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oh no, that book's been on my list too! Sigh.

November 27, 2012 at 8:32 AM  
Blogger The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

Bummed to hear about this-I think the concept is so cute and it's very wintry but I'll probably skip it now-characters are so important!

November 27, 2012 at 9:03 AM  
Blogger Audra said...

I mean, to be fair, I think in real life Hellman and Hammett were One True Love for each other (in a way, as much as they could be) so I appreciate that -- but the hipster-ification of them annoys me. Who knows, maybe I'd love it though, and I need to stop being a possessive grinch!

November 27, 2012 at 9:15 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Awww, it's still worth a try if you think it sounds good. I mean, it's quite short. Maybe you'll like the characters more?

November 27, 2012 at 9:48 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Well, Dash and Lily are SO not perfect for each other. Also, he's SUCH a hipster. I don't know if you could handle it!

November 27, 2012 at 9:49 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

Where you said that the characters took a backseat to showing how clever the authors were? I feel like this happens a lot, specifically with Levithan and John Green. (I know, I know, I'm like the ONLY person who doesn't fall all over themselves for John Green.) Their stories just don't connect with me. But I've read reviews from people who think Laini Taylor tries too hard, and I basically fall at the feet of her awesomeness, so it's all just opinions. :)

November 27, 2012 at 10:38 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Haha, I actually don't feel that about John Green at all, but, as you say, it can depend on how the writing and characters move you. I actually didn't feel like this about Levithan's part of Will Grayson, Will Grayson either, so I was really surprised by this. If the characters are strong, then fine, but Dash was ridiculously annoying.

November 28, 2012 at 11:42 AM  
Blogger April (BooksandWine) said...

Awwww, I loved this book but I absolutely see all of your points. And dude the whole time reading this I was just WAITING for you to call Dash a hipster, because he totally is. AND THEN MY WISH WAS GRANTED AND YOU DID.

I guess I liked Lily because she was so peppy and didn't seem jaded and well during Christmas I don't want jaded, ya know?

November 29, 2012 at 3:29 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Hahaha, I am SO glad that I was able to grant your wish. You are just so easy to shop for. :-p

Oh man, I am so the jaded Christmas person. My second favorite quote was Dash complaining about the holidays. That was pretty much the only way in which we bonded. ;)

November 30, 2012 at 10:22 AM  
Blogger Wendy Darling said...

Okay, the premise behind this book is SO cute. How can the book be a disappointment? But after reading some recent reviews (ahem) and my lackluster experiences with previous RC novels, I don't think this book is going to be a good read for me either. But then again, that story just seems to appealing! You've made me even MORE confused, hah.

At any rate, definitely a book to borrow rather than buy if I'm idling at the library and feeling curious. :)

December 20, 2012 at 3:19 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oh no, I made you more unsure! The premise really did touch my heart, and I REALLY wish there had been more likable characters.

Considering how short this is and how quickly you read, maybe you should just do it and enjoy making fun of them?

December 20, 2012 at 3:31 PM  

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