Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan High School Knopf 263 pp. 10/10 978-0-375-86659-3 $16.99 Library ed. 978-0-375-96659-0 $19.99
Cohn and Levithan (Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, 2006; Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List, 2007) return with another whip-smart novel about New York City teens navigating the big R: relationships. Here, the setting is Christmastime, and the "moo-like crowds, the endless visits from hapless relatives, the ersatz cheer" have sixteen-year-old Dash in a very bah-humbug mood. But his day brightens when he discovers a red Moleskine notebook, with its tempting "DO YOU DARE?" title, at the Strand bookstore. After racing through the journal's literary scavenger hunt, he leaves an anonymous clue to encourage the notebook's owner, Lily, to continue the game. As Lily takes over the narration, her first words ("I love Christmas. I love everything about it: the lights, the cheer, the big family gatherings") reveal that she and "Nameless He of the Notebook Game" aren't exactly on the same page. But as Dash and Lily swap the journal back and forth, sharing their innermost thoughts and challenging each other with solo adventures in the city, their "epistolary flirtation" seems to have possibilities for something more. Cohn and Levithan's ending includes one too many Hollywood-esque ingredients (an out-of-control bullmastiff, a baby launched into midair, a vigilante mothers' group, a first date in a police interrogation room), but their talent for creating authentic teenage characters in all their messy glory is proven once again. TANYA D. AUGER
Gr 9 Up—Dash and Lily, 16, find themselves on their own in Manhattan at Christmas. Dash is alone by choice—he's told each of his divorced parents that he's spending the holiday with the other, leaving them both to take vacations out of town. Lily's parents are taking the honeymoon they couldn't afford when they got married. They think that Lily is in the capable hands of her older brother, but he's less interested in her than in his new boyfriend, and then he gets sick and spends most of the holiday in bed. He does, however, start in motion the activity that is central to the story. It involves a red Moleskine notebook with a list of literary clues that Lily leaves in the stacks at the Strand bookstore. Bookish and erudite Dash finds it and is intrigued enough to follow Lily's lead and leave some clues of his own. The dares in the book's title refer to innocent things such as going to various crowded places like Macy's and FAO Schwartz to pick up messages. As the dares go on, the teens reveal more and more about themselves in the pages of the notebook, until they finally meet under the worst possible circumstances. While the words, ideas, and sentiments are not those of typical kids, they are not out of the realm of possibility for well-read teens. As they did in Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist (Knopf, 2006), the authors combine their talents to write an appealing book. It makes readers long to buy a notebook, begin filling its pages, and find a friend who might turn out to be more. This book will spend as much time off the shelf as Lily's notebook.—Suanne Roush, Osceola High School, Seminole, FL
It's Christmastime, and sixteen-year-old Dash is in a very bah-humbug mood. His day brightens when he discovers a notebook with a tempting "DO YOU DARE?" title. Dash and Lily, the book's owner, swap the journal (and narration) back and forth for an "epistolary flirtation." Cohn and Levithan's talent for creating authentic teenage characters in all their messy glory is proven once again.

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