Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

This book exists in my mind as Skip and Dash's Book of Dares.
For some reason that has stuck instead of the real name, so if I inadvertently call it that, you know why.

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares follows the adventures of a red Moleskine notebook that Dash finds in the shelves of The Strand (18 miles of shelving!) next to a copy of Salinger's Franny and Zooey. It starts he and Lily, the owner of the red Moleskine, on a wild goose chase through New York City at Christmastime, performing crazy dares and developing curiosity about each other at the same time.

This book is quite possibly my new favorite Christmas read. I loved how it wasn't stereotypical Christmas warm-and-fuzziness, but it still left me with a nice warm-and-fuzzy at the end. I also loved how it took me through New York at Christmastime, because it is on my bucket list to experience the Christmas season (if not Christmas itself) in New York.

I also loved the bookishness that pervaded the book. The story begins at The Strand, a mecca for book-lovers. Lily and Dash do not write in just any notebook, they write in a Moleskine notebook. They both love Franny and Zooey and even launch into a bit of analysis about it in the story. Dash wants the complete Oxford English Dictionary for Christmas. This story added at least two books to my TBR (I looove when I find books through other books). The bookishness in and of itself made me love the book.

I also really enjoyed Dash. His large vocabulary and tendency to overanalyze everything in a slightly cynical way were very endearing. However, despite his cynicism, he was still very sweet. He hates Christmas, yet he still goes along with Lily's dares because he is curious about her. While he often has a tendency to overthink a situation, he has a freshness of perspective that is very er... refreshing. One of my favorite quotes from him (in reference to a pair of mittens at Macy's that look like a hitchhiker thumb to the North Pole):

'Aesthetic and utilitarian considerations aside,' I said, 'those mittens don't particularly make sense. Isn't the whole gimmick of Christmas that there's home delivery? You get up there, all you're going to find is a bunch of exhausted, grumpy elves. Assuming, of course, that you accept the mythical presence of a workshop up there, when we all know there isn't even a pole at the north Pole, and if global warming continues, there won't be any ice, either.'
While Dash was my favorite, I also couldn't help adoring Lily. This girl is hyperactive, quirky, overly innocent and fun. She had me when she was describing how holiday cheer should apply to everyone, including stuffed animals ("special shout-out to my Ariel mermaid, who presides over the shabby-chic flower power pillow on my bed - love you, girl!"). She forgoes her normal uniform of Chuck Taylors to run around the city wearing her aunt's old white majorette boots. She talks about how she is unpopular because as a child, she started screaming about a tragic event in elementary school (I'll let you read the story to find out what that was) and acquired the nickname "Shrilly," which has never left her. She's definitely weird. But, as Dash points out, "It was so much cooler to be the weird girl."

I also loved the chase itself. Dash and Lily are very creative as they invent new places to hide the notebook. From Madam Tussaud's to FAO Schwartz (and of course The Strand, multiple times), they ran all over the city, enlisting friends and family as aides.

While this book would have been entertaining from the plot alone, the characters also explored some deeper themes (mainly having to do with young love). Sofia, Dash's ex-girlfriend, explains that he has a "girl inside his head" -

Like most guys, you carry around this girl in your head, who is exactly who you want her to be. The person you think you will love the most. And every girl you are with gets measured against this girl in your head. So this girl with the red notebook - it makes sense. If you never meet her, she never has to get measured. She can be the girl in your head.
A lot of the more thoughtful parts of the story have to do with reconciling real people with "the girl in your head." I could really relate to this (I'm sure many can) - I had a long distance love interest in high school. It was easy to write long emails and feel like my life was so perfect and romantic, but when it came down to it, we never knew each other very well because we superimposed our mental ideals on each other. Now, my husband is often not "the [boy] in my head" - he is better because he often is wonderful in ways I didn't realize I needed. Anyway, personal stories aside, I think that theme in the book rings true for many people - it is something many of us have to overcome on our way to love. I appreciated the depth in this hilarious story.

The one thing I didn't really like is probably better explained by Lily when Dash drops an F-bomb: "Ouch. Cursing -- not so dashing." I'm not a huge fan of swearing in books. But it wasn't excessive - just a little bit of a turn off. And I guess this can't be the "book in my head." (OK, I'm probably stretching that a little far now).

But overall - love it. I would highly recommend it, especially but not only during Christmas.

Accessibility/readability - quite.
Aesthetics/literary merit - 3.5 Mostly just a fun read, but Dash's vocabulary was studly.
Plot - 4.5
Characters - 4.5
Personal response: 4
Overall: 4

Read for All About {n}'s holiday reading challenge.


  1. This sounds like such a fun read! I've read 2 other DL/RC books and I enjoyed both of them (although the excessive f-words in each got more than a little... grating) and I'm really looking forward to reading this one! :) Awesome review! I'll definitely have to push it up the tbr!

  2. OH I loved this book! Read it in December because it is a great Christmas book. And I will say, I haven't read the other two novels because I heard about all the language, but in this book it is just occasional, as in, not on every single page. I'm planning on rereading it again this year in December!


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