Tuesday, October 1, 2013

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

Happy October, everyone!

Like a lot of you out there, October is my FAVORITE month of the whole year. Sweater weather is finally slowly creeping in, everything is pumpkin spice and joy, I'm starting to ride my bike home through crisp, dead leaves, and it's just FALL. Plus, I'm obsessed with Halloween, so that's a major bonus, too. This month, I'm making it a goal to read some spooky fiction. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is FINALLY on hold for me at my library, which means that once that's done, I'm dedicating myself to horror, or other Fall-related books. Any suggestions?

Before we get into Halloween, though, let's get into Christmas!

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 1, 2010
Source / Format: Library Book!
Page Count: 260.
Goodreads & Amazon

Christmas is Lily's favorite holiday of the year. It's full of family tradition, baking, snow, and festive cheer. But when her parents go to Fiji for their wedding anniversary, and her grandfather takes a trip to Florida to see his long-distance lover, she is left with her sick brother, his boyfriend, and no Christmas cheer whatsoever. Thus, the Book of Dares is born: a little red Moleskine that Lily hides in the stacks of the Strand bookstore in New York City for one lucky boy to find. That lucky boy is Dash, a moody, Christmas hating guy with a love for the Strand and words. Inside is a small list of dares, guiding him through the bookstore, where he is left to give a dare of his own. Dash and Lily send each other on a handmade tour of New York City, leaving clues and dropping hints, but will it actually bring them together?

Imagine this: You're in your favorite bookstore, scanning the shelves. You get to the section where a favorite author's books reside, and there, nestled in comfortably between the incredibly familiar spines, sits a red notebook. What do you do? The choice, I think, is obvious: You take down the red notebook and open it. And then you do whatever it tells you to do. 

You may remember that while I loved Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan as a movie, but not so much as a book. From what I remember of it, there wasn't a huge sense of adventure and I didn't love the characters as much. But! I've seen Dash & Lily's Book of Dares splashed all around the internet for a hundred years now, so I decided to take the plunge and actually enjoyed it much more than Nick & Norah. I've never been to New York City, but this book brings it alive on the page and I loved following the hesitant Dash and overly-eager Lily through the Christmas infused city. A lot of the places that are visited in the novel are places I've heard of: Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, FAO Schwartz, Macy's and so on. It was fun reading the characters interacting within these places and bringing them alive. 

But no matter what, I love Christmas, really really really I do, don't care if I am sardined in between two million panicky Christmas shoppers, nope, don't care at all, I loved every moment of the experience once I got inside--the jingle bells playing from the speakers, the heart-racing excitement at seeing all the colorful toys and games in such a larger-than-life setting. Aisle after aisle and floor after floor of dense fun experience. I mean, Snarl must know me well already, perhaps on some psychic level, if he'd sent me to FAO Schwartz, only the mecca of everything that was Great and Beautiful about the holidays. Snarl must love Christmas as much as me, I decided. 

Though I loved getting a written tour of New York City, and loved the Christmas vibes practically radiating off of the page, I did not much enjoy the characters. Firstly was the fact that I had very little idea of what they looked like. For the first hundred or so pages, I thought that this was a brilliant maneuver on Cohn & Levithan's part. I thought they were keeping us in the dark on purpose. "Oh my God!" I thought, "Dash and Lily don't know what each other looks like through the notebook, so we don't get to know either!" But as we got further along in the story, I wish I had a few more descriptors to fully see the two of them. Dash, I loved, mostly because he is definitely the type of boy I would have loved in high school. He is bookish, a lover of words, and a little bit of a shit head. I really, really could not get into Lily's character though. She is optimistic about a lot of things, but Cohn treated her in a way that made her seem naive and childlike. Lily refers to herself a lot in the third-person, was a little too loyal to her grandfather's rules and curfew while her parents are out of town, and still calls herself 'Shrilly'--a nickname that was bestowed to her in elementary school. Oh, and for a sixteen year old girl living in New York City, I was surprised to see her cringe when she hears curse words. Dash and Lily do get themselves into some hilarious situations, though, that made me laugh out loud. 

The Strand proudly proclaims itself as home to eighteen miles of books. I have no idea how this is calculated. Does one stack all the books on top of each other to get the eighteen miles? Or do you put them end to end, to create a bridge between Manhattan and, say, Short Hills, New Jersey, eighteen miles away? Were there eighteen miles of shelves? No one knew. We all just took the bookstore at its word, because if you couldn't trust a bookstore, what could you trust? 

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan really takes the reader on a ride through New York to some of the most famous tourist destinations and each one is brought to life in a way that makes the reader feel like they are right alongside of them. I was anxiously awaiting the next pass off of the notebook, because that meant a new adventure with Dash and Lily. The characters left much to be desired, and I had hoped to see them more clearly. Lily left much to be desired, and I wanted to take her under my wing just to teach her a thing or two about the ways of the world. 

Rating: 3 / 5 

Have you read this book? What did you think? Even though it wasn't my favorite, it still has me very excited for Christmas! Looking forward to getting some fall-worthy reading suggestions!

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