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Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

Review

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan's first collaborative young adult novel, NICK & NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST, gained huge visibility when it was turned into a popular movie starring Michael Cera and Kat Dennings. The film, with its unconventional, music-laden New York City whirlwind romance, was undoubtedly good. But those who read the original book were treated to something even more special --- the chance to witness a literary collaboration unfolding on the page. Cohn wrote Norah's chapters; Levithan penned Nick's. With no planning or discussion in between, the two sent each other story installments one chapter at a time, with no idea what new twists or surprising connections the other would impose or uncover. For avid readers, especially aspiring writers, the novel is a delightful glimpse into an ideal writing partnership.

Now, in DASH & LILY'S BOOK OF DARES, their third collaboration (after NAOMI AND ELY'S NO KISS LIST), Cohn and Levithan become more self-reflective, as --- even within the context of a truly delightful love story --- the two offer plenty of musings about the process of writing, communication, narrating one's own life, and even the people within it.

It's no great surprise that DASH & LILY'S BOOK OF DARES should lead to this kind of contemplation, given its plot. On his own in Manhattan (by choice) during the week before Christmas, Dash --- who has told each of his divorced and utterly uncommunicative parents that he's with the other --- heads to The Strand, New York's legendary bookstore with "18 Miles of Books." There, on a shelf next to one of his favorite novels, Dash finds a small red notebook filled with a series of handwritten clues that lead him on a scavenger hunt through the store, and eventually to an invitation from a girl named Lily to construct his own clues for her.

Lily doesn't know Dash, of course; she wasn't even the mastermind of the notebook scheme. All she knows is that she's lonely and more than a little upset that her parents have disrupted her favorite holiday by heading to Fiji for Christmas instead of spending it in New York City with their family the way they always have. Lily loves her large family, and they do, too; she's their "Lily Bear." But even as they have babied her, Lily has found it a little hard to grow up. She might be the star of her soccer team, but she isn't friends with any of her teammates; what's more, she's outright scared of meeting, flirting with, or kissing boys her age. That's why the red notebook --- once she joins the game --- fills her with both hope and fear.

As Lily and Dash construct ever more devious and daring clues for each other, they both realize that the characters they've created in their heads might not be quite the same as the real flesh-and-blood person walking around in Manhattan somewhere. What might happen if they finally meet? What if real life can't live up to the life stories they've been creating in the red notebook?

DASH & LILY'S BOOK OF DARES is a fascinating example of two terrific authors and friends reflecting on their own writing process even as they create a truly poignant love story between two quirky misfits. Playful, touching and utterly romantic, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan's latest collaboration is simultaneously a celebration of individuality, a love letter to New York, and a testament to the power --- and playfulness --- of writing itself.

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Reviewed by Norah Piehl on October 18, 2011

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

  • Publication Date: October 26, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0375866590
  • ISBN-13: 9780375866593