Review: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan


December 12, 2012 by Heidi

book cover of Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Title: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: Rachel Cohn [Website|Twitter|Facebook] and David Levithan [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Standing: Stand alone novel.
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Holiday
Published: October 26th, 2010 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover; 272 pages.
Source: Borrowed from my local library.

Disclaimer: I read this book last holiday season, and so wrote this review almost a year ago…ergo, if it’s not up to my usual awesomeness, that is why.

Dash is browsing the shelves at New York City’s most famous bookstore, The Strand, when he spots a moleskin notebook out of place.  He can’t resist opening it, and therein finds a dare from a teenaged girl.  Dash decides to take it, and to one up his mysterious compatriot by daring her back.  Thus begins the holiday-fueled back and forth between Dash and Lily, who create a series of dares for one another through the book to keep themselves busy on a lonely Christmas break, and possibly find love.

Like most ardent readers, I have a fairly strict policy about reading a book before watching the movie based off said book.  But I’ve been busy the last few years, really busy.  So when I saw Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist on T.V. I made an exception and watched it.  I thought, Kat Dennings and Michael Cera in a cute YA film about music?  How could this not be worth an hour and a half of my time?  Well that was a mistake dear friends, because it wasn’t.  Unfortunately, after seeing a movie I have a very difficult time reading the book, so I decided instead of attempting to read Nick and Norah, I’d read Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares.  The concept is totally cute, sweet, and fun and I’ve been in the mood for some light contemporary YA.  Plus–it’s the perfect holiday book!

Honestly the best part of this book for me was not necessarily what was written, but rather how it was written.  I love the idea that Levithan and Cohn didn’t necessarily know what was coming next, and they passed the story back and forth between them, it forming as they went.  That said, this may also have been the book’s weakness.  Certain aspects of the plot seemed pretty forced and contrived, and it comes across as a bit too much.  I also didn’t like Lily or Dash all that much to be honest, nor did I think they were really great together.  They each have this fear that the person they are getting to know through the dares in their shared notebook isn’t an accurate reflection of who they really are.  I know that this fear is supposed to dissipate as they get to know one another, but honestly, it didn’t for me.  I liked the notebook versions of both Dash and Lily better than the actual characters.

Can we address the name, “Dash”?  When I think Dash, I think “dog” or maybe “The Incredibles” or quite possibly “Mad Men/prep school”.  I do not think hot, down to earth, regular fun guy who could win my heart.  But to each their own.  Maybe his father was a posh Brit with a title and lands who fell for some nobody hippy artist chick from NYC and knocked her up before she left him to his tea and crumpets…oh wait, that’s the plot of What a Girl Wants.  Mostly I think this pair of authors really enjoy alliteration.  Lily is true to her nickname, “Shrilly”.  She’s fairly juvenile in her emotions, and everyone babies her to avoid her reactions.  She does have this fantastic big family, they all look out for each other, and most of them get enlisted at some point during the dares.

In the end, I felt that Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares was a light, fun, holiday read, but it was not my favorite.

Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: Eh, after watching Nick and Norah and reading Dash and Lily, I’ll be honest.  I don’t see myself bothering with Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List.

Recommended for: People who enjoy Christmas in the city (I personally hate the crowds!) and the back and forth style.

Real life repercussions of reading this book: Finally!  People who agree with me that “an historic” is completely annoying and incorrect and that everyone should say “a historic”.


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  1. Asheley says:

    This is one of David Levithan’s books that I haven’t read yet (for shame!) and I need to give it a go. I am one of his superfans, though, so I will eventually get his entire catalog under my belt. Really, what I’ve mostly heard about this one is basically what you are saying: it’s light and fun, etc. So that is what I’ll expect going into it.

    In terms of co-authoring: I have no aspirations of writing AT ALL, but I am totally fascinated with the process. To further that, I am even more fascinated with the co-authoring process. So when I find that two authors write a book together, I’m always interested in how it is done. Levithan has done it quite a few times and each time I’m always impressed just as much as how well he works with his fellow authors as with the story he tells. (I’m not sure he can top Will Grayson, Will Grayon – but that’s my own personal opinion. I loved that one.)

    The fact that I’m still seeing this one being read and popping up on blogs frequently is telling to me in a good way and it reminds me that I need to get my behind in gear and pick it up.

  2. I have been meaning to read this book all year, but still haven’t. I’ve heard good things about it.

    Also, on another note, I’m reading The Mischief of the Mistletoe because of your review. I’m not very far into it, but am liking it. I think I am going to run to a different library to pick up the earlier books in the Pink Carnation series. I love anything that has a Scarlet Pimpernel feel. :)

  3. I was underwhelmed by this book as well, for many of the same reasons, including that the name “Dash” is wholly distracting and that the notebook versions of the characters were far more compelling than the real deal. I haven’t read the other two books in this grouping by these two authors either,

  4. THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU! I’ve seen this book EVERYWHERE and EVERYONE keeps tells me to read it and all I want to do is cringe. It sounds like a novel I’d be a black sheep for and really not enjoy, so I’ve been waiting for one of my trusted friends to review it before I made a decision, AND YOU DID! Thanks, Heidi! You’ve helped me a TON! :) It’s a real shame you didn’t enjoy this one, but I agreed with all the points you made and, I agree – Dash is NOT an attractive name! =.= Incredible review, dear! 😀

  5. elena says:

    erm so I have a copy of this book I started but…never finished. idk, I couldn’t really connect with the characters, especially Lily. I did like Nick & Norah better though!

  6. I’m so glad you reviewed this. I’ve beent thinking of reading it, given the number of positive reviews I’ve seen (and one blogger I generally like apparently holds it up as one of her all-time favorite books?), but the issues you describe are exactly the kind of thing that would drive me crazy.

    (Maybe Dash was named Dash to evoke the reindeer?)

  7. Awww, I loved this book BUT I absolutely see all of your points made and I do have to admit Lily was super whiny and kind of weird. I did like Dash, but I thought he was a total hipster.

  8. Thanks for this review, Heidi. I really liked the one David Levithan book I’ve read, but I was not a fan of Rachel Cohn’s BETA; and I thought the first Cyd Charisse book was just okay. I’ve been encouraged to read this book again and again, but after seeing this review, I’m not sure we’d be a good match.

    Thanks for your honesty, as always!

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  9. I read this one last month, and, like you, I did enjoy it, but had some significant reservations.

    Just FYI, the name Dash was short for Dashiell, after the author Dashiell Hammett. Apparently, Hammett had a long love affair with Lillian Hellman, so her name was also based on that.

    Lily was super annoying, and she seemed a bit like a thirteen-year-old to me. Dash was just SUCH a hipster. The plot was so much fun, but their characters were annoying.

    I DNFed the Nick and Norah’s book and the movie. In the film, I remember quitting when the girl was looking for her phone in the toilet. Potty humor is NOT my thing. GROSS. I don’t know that Rachel Cohn and David Levithan bring out the best in one another.

  10. VeganYANerds says:

    Yes to thinking the movie of Nick & Norah was so not worth it, I was really disappointed by it and I had just read the book and they changed a bunch of things. I thought the book was the same as Dash & Lily, ok but nothing spesh.

    Great review, Heidi (it’s just as good as usual :P)

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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.