No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Sunday, August 30, 2015

2015/16: Dash and Lily's Book of Dares -- David Levithan and Rachel Cohn

I was attempting to write the story of my life. It wasn’t so much about plot. It was much more about character. [loc. 2579]
Dash and Lily are teenagers in New York City. Their 'Book of Dares' is a red Moleskine notebook which Dash finds on a bookshop shelf next to his favourite author's books. The notebook sets out some puzzles, which Dash solves: then they begin a correspondence -- and courtship -- via the notebook, and an increasingly apt set of challenges.

This is very much 'Odd Couple' territory. Dash is an introvert, Lily an extravert. Dash loathes Christmas ('This was the miracle of the season, the way it put the fuck off so loud in our hearts' [loc. 387]), Lily adores it. Both are spending Christmas more or less alone, but in Dash's case it's intentional (he's told each of his divorced parents that he's staying with the other) while in Lily's it's very much not (her parents are away on a belated honeymoon, her brother has locked himself in his room with his new boyfriend).

They bring out the best in one another. Writing in the notebook helps Dash realise that he's lonely: Lily discovers, meanwhile, that she has a wilder side.

This was a light read but a very entertaining one. I felt a fondness for both characters (though much more sympathy with Dash than Lily), and I enjoyed the vignettes of Christmastime New York. The supporting cast (elderly relatives, school friends, members of the NYPD) are suitably clear-eyed when it comes to the protagonists, and Dash and Lily's backgrounds are sketched out in brief, anecdotal asides instead of being used to explain or excuse. A small, sweet delight.

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