Thursday, 9 December 2010
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares opens in the Strand, New York: the bookstore of all bookstores. It's Christmastime, and a boy named Dash is perusing the shelves just because he can. It's there that he finds a red Moleskine notebook that first sends him on a bookish treasure hunt and then prompts him to enter into correspondence with its author, Lily. Soon Dash and Lily are exchanging messages in the Moleskine, sharing stories and compelling each other to seek the notebook out in hiding places around the city. And before long, they're wondering just what they mean, or might mean, to each other.
As in the much-loved Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, Dash & Lily's Book of Dares is narrated by its leads in alternating points of view, with Rachel Cohn writing Lily's chapters and David Levithan writing Dash's. Less cool and a little more contemplative than Nick and Norah, Dash and Lily share that same sweet brand of hesitant chemistry that soon has the reader utterly convinced that these two would be great together. I have to confess I initially found the hopeful and insecure Lily easier to believe in than Dash, whose unfaltering literariness is probably as unlikely as it is magnificent, but eventually I realised that's kind of the point. There's an element of fiction to everyone, even in real life. This book knows it, and so does Dash.
While Dash & Lily's Book of Dares is both captivating and entertaining, most of all it's a book overflowing with ideas. It's a book that will make you think about language and meaning and the nature of love. At the heart of the story are these complex layered relationships between writers and readers: Dash and Lily, Cohn and Levithan, you and all of the above. All these writers endeavouring to communicate ideas and feelings with their words, and all these readers interpreting them, and it's like a celebration of the whole writing and reading process. And at the same time, it's a moving experience because the words are beautiful and clever and sometimes even fanciful. It's never hard work, because it's witty and full of whimsy, but it asks huge and important questions. What exactly do we love when we love someone? What do they love back? How do we know it's real?
I know not everyone will love this book. I know not everyone will find tears (embarrassingly) welling up in their eyes on the bus on the way to work because they find certain passages so darn perfect. I also know I sound like a complete fangirly dork, and I hope you'll overlook that and pick this one up anyway. Because Dash & Lily's Book of Dares is also a book about taking risks and looking for love even though you might not find it. And you might find it here.
Out: October 26th 2010, US