Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohen & David Levithan (2010)
“I wanted to ask her, What does a stranger feel like? Not to be snarky or sarcastic. Because I really wanted to know if there was a difference, if there was a way to become truly knowable, if there wasn’t always something keeping you a stranger, even to people who weren’t strange to you at all.” 194
Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares was selected by one of my book club’s for our December book selection. This is a month that our group tries to pick a light, uplifting story that is neither too lengthy nor too sad. Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares is a Young Adult romance novel, set in Manhattan on Christmas, and it fit the bill perfectly.
Lily is a smart, funny, quirky girl who is beloved by her huge extended family, but who sees herself as set apart from her peers, especially boys. She adores Christmas in all its forms — the music, the food, the gifts, even the crowds, tourists, and lines. This holiday season she is on her own and finds herself adrift with no relatives to fill her time. Her older brother, sensing Lily is a lost cause when it comes to finding a boyfriend on her own, devises a scavenger hunt that they will set up in a local used bookstore. Should an adventurous, intelligent, book-loving boy happen to find the first clue? Well, then he might just find his way to Lily. The romance of it all persuades Lily to agree and a red notebook is hidden in the bookstore, with a set of clues that will lead a boy right to Lily.
Enter Dash, a cynical, cranky boy who absolutely hates Christmas and everything associated with it. He prefers the company of books — the more complex and obscure the better — to people and hopes to spend his holiday week alone. While browsing his favorite bookstore on December 21, Dash finds Lily’s book and cannot help but be intrigued. A young woman, clearly knowledgeable and daring, who wants to use a trail of books to help them meet? Who would pass up the chance to meet her?
Soon the notebook takes on a life of its own as Dash and Lily take turns writing cryptic notes that take the other all around the city. While decoding messages and hunting down clues set up in New York’s iconic institutions– the more crowded and touristy the destination, the better — the two begin to write their stories to one another as well. Even though they have not met, the two begin to grow closer and closer — emotionally and physically — as they hunt down clues that they hope will lead them to one another.
Dash and Lily is written in a style very similar to John Green and told with the same snappy dialogue and precociousness that Green is famous for; including quirky-but-understanding relatives and multi-cultural cast of friends. The story was touching reminder of just how alone teens can feel and how hard they can find it to befriend people who will love them just as they are…no upgrades required.