The Bookshelf, A Teen Review: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Courtney Bowers
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If you’ve read my book review column before, you know I’m a fan of juxtaposed story telling. And if you’ve read my column closely, you also know that when Rachel Cohn and David Levithan pair up as coauthors, I will be madly rushing to the library to find myself a copy of their book.

Best known for Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Cohn and Levithan continually write teen love stories from the perspective of both individuals in the relationship, usually revolving the novel around New York City’s hipster culture. For Nick and Norah, the connection was music. For Dash and Lilly, that connection is words.

Dash is an intelligent, snarky Manhattan teenage boy who is jaded by pop culture and obsessed with improving and flaunting his expansive vocabulary. Throughout the book, he is described as always having a snarl on his face, even earning him the nickname Snarly. Channeling his inner Holden Caulfield, Dash flees the bustling holiday streets of New York City to peruse a bookstore in solitude, hiding out and reading J.D. Salinger, of course. That’s when Dash discovers the notebook, right on his favorite shelf. Inside, there is a series of clues and challenges, leading him on a scavenger hunt around the bookstore. The best part is that the handwriting is obviously that of a girl, and a girl who reads Salinger intrigues Dash. Once he completes the challenge, he is asked to leave his information with the possibility that a mysterious “Lily” will contact him. Instead, Dash leaves his own challenge in the notebook for her

Now, it’s time to get inside Lily’s head. Lily is quite the opposite of Dash. She is bubbly, free-spirited and still a bit naïve about life and love. However, when she discovers a mystery boy has attempted to make her play her own game, she decides she is ready for an adventure outside of her overprotected life. And so the romance begins upon the pages of the notebook, traded back and forth amongst the two.

The dares and NYC escapades are fun, but most of the joy comes from imagining what the other person is like. The notebook makes it apparent that both Dash and Lily are interesting and smart, but they are still relative strangers to one another, although they feel as if they could tell each other absolutely anything. Slowly but surely, Dash and Lily realize they are in love with the idealized versions of one another, the characters they have created for themselves behind the protection of the notebook. Now, they are both dying to meet, to fall in love outside of the notebook’s pages, but will they live up to the expectations they have created?

Book of Dares is witty and charming, allowing readers to feel as if they too are walking the streets of New York and falling in love. Yet the story explores something much bigger than just a few weeks of romance in a city: the question of whether we fall in love with who someone is, or if we fall in love with who we hope someone is.

Have you read “Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares?” Discuss your thoughts on the book below.

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