The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

Christmas Time is Here, By Golly (Review: Dash and Lily's Book of Dares; R. Cohn, D. Levithan)

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares
Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Mira INK 2012

Trust me, that song is the ONLY WAY to start this review.  Are you grinning like a loon?  Excellent, you may proceed.

It’s Christmas time in the city and Dash really doesn’t want to hear any silver bells (see what I did there, hmmmm?).  Stalking the shelves of The Strand after temporarily orphaning himself for the holidays, he’d be quite happy for the, as he sees it, contrived comfort and joy to jump out into the cold.  While moping about near the JD Salinger books, he comes across a red, moleskin notebook.  Intrigued, he opens it to find a challenge, and another one… a series, in fact, of strange clues, set by an unknown girl for him to follow, complete and return.  Does he dare, Lily asks?  Why, yes he does.  The notebook starts to pass between the two as they send each other on a scavenger hunt through Yuletide New York with Dash slowly embracing the idea that the girl at the other end of these messages might just be the perfect girl for him…if they ever manage to actually meet.

Dash is the ultimate festive misanthrope.  In fact, he’s probably pretty misanthropic for the rest of the year as well, but his whole demeanour is so knowingly contrived that he is incredibly likable.  As he snarls his way around NYC with his passion for words and inclination to think deeply, he emerges as a deep-thinking, not uncaring, intelligent figure.  While he clearly enjoys his own company, in fact makes a point of enjoying his own company, his willingness to follow the breadcrumbs that Lily has left behind speaks of that specific loneliness that can hit at Christmas.  He’s a great character, reminiscent of many John Green protagonists, but ultimately belonging entirely to David Levithan’s, whose fingerprints are all over this particular “wannabe hipster”.

Lily, conversely, LOVES Christmas.  It is for her, without irony, The Most Beautiful Time of the Year.  Except that this year she finds herself alone, abandoned by her beloved parents and Grandparents to the distracted care of her brother who, while delightful (and I mean DELIGHTFUL) is wrapped up with his new boyfriend.  Its’ these two lovebirds that set Lily off with her red notebook, convincing her that it will lead to someone truly special.  And why shouldn’t it, it is Christmas after all and magical things always happen at Christmas.  Lily is very, very sweet.  Youngest of a sprawling extended family, there’s a touch of the baby about her and she has a tendancy to over-react in dramatic and hilarious ways.  There’s a longing portrayed in Lily that will remind every reader of those childhood Christmas’s where magic really DID exist.  The polar opposite of Dash, Lily is all impulse and hope and enthusiasm and it’s hard not to get caught up in her exuberant planning.  Also, she has majorette boots.  With tassles.  That she accessorises with tinsel.  What’s not to love.

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares has to be one of the best books I’ve read this year.  It’s incredibly romantic without being sickening, thoughtful without being existential, funny without trying too hard and ENTIRELY, ENTIRELY ADORABLE.  While one expects the story to end a certain way, the author’s frequently second guess the reader making the story compellingly meandering.  The writing is fantastic, especially for those amoung us who love language (er, that’s all of you, right?) and the dialogue clever.  Ahead of almost everything else though, Dash and Lily take readers to the kind of New York not seen since Home Alone 2 (and I mean that in a GOOD way).  Bell ringers, carollers, Macy’s and Nutcracker Houses practically scream Christmas but handled in the deft hands of Levithan and Cohn become a love song to a fascinating city. Gar, I can’t be clever about this.  Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares is quite, quite brilliant.  I love it.  IT’S LIKE CHRISTMAS IN YOUR HANDS.  So, yes, read it.  Apart from anything else, it inspired by BFF, whom I recently introduced to it state this:

And d’you know what, I’m OK with that.  Read it and we can be best friends too.

This review was brought to you by SplendibirdIf you liked it, then please go and take a look at her vlog, part of a campaign to become the in house blogger for Mira INK - something that will enable her to share books like this one with ALL THE UNIVERSE.  Or, at the very least, a good percentage of it.  Thank you!


Melissa said…
Okay, fine. I'll read this one. I need a dash of adorable, anyway.
back to top