I discovered ‘Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares’ through reviews that I read in the blogosphere. I fell in love with the premise of the book and decided to read it. I got it around a couple of weeks back, started reading it yesterday and finished it today. Here is the review.
Summary of the story
I am giving below the summary of the story as given in the inside flap of the book.
I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.
So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?
Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.
What I think
The book starts with this passage.
Imagine this :
You’re in your favorite bookstore, scanning the shelves. You get to the section where a favorite author’s books reside, and there, nestled in comfortably between the incredibly familiar spines, sits a red notebook.
What do you do?
The choice, I think is obvious :
You take down the red notebook and open it.
And then you do whatever it tells you to do.
Who can resist this first passage! I wanted to find out what happened next!
A page later there is this passage, where the narrator describes the bookstore.
Some bookstores want you to believe they’re a community center, like they need to host a cookie-making class in order to sell you some Proust. But the Strand leaves you completely on your own, caught between the warring forces of organization and idiosyncrasy, with idiosyncrasy winning every time. In other words, it was my kind of graveyard.
And a page later, the narrator describes himself.
I could have been hanging out with my friends, but most of them were hanging out with their families or their Wiis. (Wiis? Wiii? What is the plural?) I preferred to hang out with the dead, dying, or desperate books – used we call them, in a way that we’d never call a person, unless we meant it cruelly. (“Look at Clarissa…she’s such a used girl.”)
I was horribly bookish, to the point of coming right out and saying it, which I knew was not socially acceptable. I particularly loved the adjective bookish, which I found other people used about as often as ramrod or chum or teetotaler.
The main character in the book is a book lover (or more like a book fanatic), he likes hanging out at Strand and he discovers a moleskin notebook there – can there be a better start to a story?
What happens next? The book has some clues to the owner’s identity as well as instructions on what to do next. I don’t want to tell you more and spoil the book for you. So do read it to find out what happens next J
‘Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares’looked like a modern Young Adult version of a Shakespearean comedy to me. The premise is wonderful, the book picks up pace and mystery and we want to know what happens next. There are comic scenes and there is one nearly sad scene. The story starts just before Christmas and ends on New Year day. The book evokes the Christmas and New Year atmosphere very beautifully. The ending is surprising and interesting from one perspective and predictable from another. I liked the ending.
Here are a few thoughts on mine, which are spoilers. Read them at your own risk J
I suspected the identity of one of the narrators and I hoped that in the end it will be revealed that Dash and Lily knew each other in the real-world and so will be stunned when they discover that secret in the end (like it happens in the movie ‘You’ve got mail’ where the two mail friends discover that they are professional rivals in real life). But, unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way. I think Cohn and Levithan missed a trick here. I also felt that the story lost some steam when the action moves outside the Strand to other stores and other locations. Some of these locations and scenes are good, but I would have loved it if most of the action had happened in the bookstore – there were infinite opportunities for the authors to indulge in literary references, puzzles and mysteries and they seem to have passed up on that. I also found that the main characters find the mysteries behind the clues too easily. I would have loved something like what happens in ‘The Da Vinci Code’ – where each clue leads to some research and after a few dead-ends the main characters have a sudden insight into the mystery. I hated the character called Edgar Thibaud – his presence was not at all required. There was also a character called Sofia, who was nice, but again was not required (in my opinion, atleast).
But these were all minor quibbles I had with the book. Overall, the book is an interesting and a fast-paced read, and looks at the strange and fascinating ways young people find love and how they doubt the genuine article when they find it. I would love to see how it will be if this story is produced as a play – I think it will be fantastic. I think it will work as a movie too, but I think it will wonderful as a play. Hope someone is thinking about it.
Here are some of my favourite passages from the book.
Children frighten me. I mean, I appreciate them on a cute aesthetic level, but they’re very demanding and unreasonable creatures and often smell funny. I can’t believe I ever was one.
I don’t think meaning is something that can be explained. You have to understand it on your own. It’s like when you’re starting to read. First, you learn the letters. Then, once you know what sounds the letters make, you use them to sound out words. You know that c-a-t leads to cat and d-o-g leads to dog. But then you have to make that extra leap, to understand that the word, the sound, the “cat” is connected to an actual cat, and the “dog” is connected to an actual dog. It’s that leap, that understanding, that leads to meaning. And a lot of the time in life, we’re still just sounding things out. We know the sentences and how to say them. We know the ideas and how to present them. We know the prayers and which words to say in what order. But that’s only spelling.
I don’t mean this to sound hopeless. Because in the same way that a kid can realize what “c-a-t” means, I think we can find the truths that live behind our words. I wish I could remember the moment when I was a kid and I discovered that the letters linked into words, and that the words linked to real things. What a revelation that must have been. We don’t have the words for it, since we hadn’t yet learned the words. It must have been astonishing, to be given the key to the kingdom and see it turn in our hands so easily.
The weather was weirdly warm and sunny for a Christmas Day. It felt more like June than December, yet another sign of the wrongness of this particular Christmas Day.
When we were kids, our Mrs.Basil E. used to take Langston and me on museum adventures on school holidays when our parents had to work. The days always ended with a trip for giant ice cream sundaes. How great is a great-aunt who lets her niece and nephew have ice cream for dinner? Truly great, in my opinion.
It was like the full amount of time we’d been apart was falling between each sentence.
She was laughing at something Dov was saying to her, but she was looking at me, like he was the distraction and I was the conversation.
(Comment : I loved that phrase ‘he was the distraction and I was the conversation’! I don’t know whether it is a cliché, but it is beautiful!)
The Strand proudly proclaims itself as home to eighteen miles of books. I have no idea how this is calculated. Does one stack all the books on top of each other to get the eighteen miles? Or do you put them end to end, to create a bridge between Manhattan and, say, Short Hills, New Jersey, eighteen miles away? Were there eighteen miles of shelves? No one knew. We all just took the bookstore at its word, because if you couldn’t trust a bookstore, what could you trust?
I suspected that when something was a beginning and an ending at the same time, that meant it could only exist in the present.
Here are the reviews which inspired me to read the book.
If you like stories with a bookish background and also like romantic comedies, you will love this book. Fellow book blogger Kelly, from KellyVision says that Cohen and Levithan’s ‘Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist’ is even better. I want to read that next.