Monday, January 24, 2011

Review — Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

Synopsis (via 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 New York Times 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.

Review:  I was a big fan of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist so when I saw Rachel Cohn and David Levithan were collaborating on a new he said/she said YA novel to say I was excited would be putting it mildly.  Dash and Lily covers a tumultuous time in a New Yorker’s life: December 21st – January 1st.  A time when tourists descend on the city in droves, it becomes impossible to take a step without being bombarded with rampant consumerism and unflappable cheer (and, this year, lots and lots of snow).  Some love it, some become, well, snarly.

Snarly is exactly how we meet Dash does at the start of the book.  He’s not a fan of Christmas and is counting the hours until the holidays are over.  Dash’s cynicism is counterbalanced by Lily’s innocent optimism.  She loves, no, adores, Christmas.  They meet through a red notebook in Strand, the famous bookstore housing 18 miles of books.  Lily’s original message in the notebook is bold and witty, yet we learn that she didn’t write it at all, but is a creation of her brother to get her to meet a guy. 

Lily is essentially the opposite of our (and Dash’s) first impression of her and as the book goes on, I kept kind of wishing I was following the girl I’d met in the notebook rather than the slightly immature, meek girl we were supposed to be falling in love with.  She was the kind of girl who’s sweet, but I couldn’t imagine actually spending more than a couple hours with because her perky nature would drive me insane.  Similarly, Dash’s hipster ways were kind of grating after a while.  His friend Boomer seemed like he was only there to inform us that he was actually a good guy and not perpetually “snarly.”  

While I liked most of the side characters (Lily’s aunt in particular is awesome), I didn’t get Boomer at all.  Was he challenged in some way?  How can he not have simple conversations without getting confused?  He was like a five-year-old stuck in a sixteen-year-old’s body.  I found myself getting distracted by worry for the kid, running around in New York City about to get mugged at any moment or get taken advantage of in some way, rather than invested in the budding romance.  Also of a concern:  the Macy’s Santa.  There’s a moment with Dash and Santa that Cohn and Levithan brush off as “huggy” which made me recoil and want to call To Catch a Predator

I kept expecting to relate to the characters like I did Nick and Norah, but it just didn’t happen.  I didn’t dislike them, really, but I just didn’t care much if they ended up together or not.  And because I couldn’t get invested in them, I also couldn’t understand how they were getting invested in each other.  They didn’t have much chemistry to speak of.  Yet, Cohn and Levithan’s writing is snappy and witty enough to keep me turning the page, wanting (but not eager) to see what happens next.  I don't think Christmas worked as a common denominator between the two characters like music did with Nick & Norah.  There was a certain amount of love and youthful adoration for something bigger than themselves that was missing.

I do, however, love the way they use New York to their advantage, finding all the nooks and cranies (and crazies) of the city and making you feel like you belong.  I hope they do another novel like this together because the small shout outs from Nick and Norah made my day.  I feel like their creating their own New York and I want to see more.

While I enjoyed the Christmas theme (any non-cheesy holiday books are few and far between), and I wish I had read this before Christmas instead of after, I feel like more dynamic characters might have made this a bit more enjoyable.  

Lit Snit Verdict: C+
That cover, on the other hand? A+

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