“But isn’t this a dance? Isn’t that what we do with words? Isn’t that what we do when we talk, when we spar, when we make plans or leave it to chance? Some of it’s choreographed. Some of the steps have been done for ages. And the rest–the rest is spontaneous. The rest has to be decided on the floor, in the moment, before the music ends.”
There are few phenomena more heartwarming and deliciously satisfying than those moments of glorious happenstance. The stars align, the birds sing, and the universe concedes, all the necessary cogs and gears shifting into place to create the scene: eyes meeting, hearts palpitating, an instant connection established. This is the stuff we thrive on, the inevitable meet-cute, also known as the part they always show in movie trailers to reel in ticket sales. One bumped into the other while carrying a bowl full of hot, sticky chocolate, accidentally dumping it all over the other, who is wearing all white? No way! Just how will their story end?
Luckily, we are not subjected to such trite fortuity in Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares. In their third joint novel, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have yet again crafted a story that merrily straddles the fence separating wildly implausible from perfectly believable. Because hasn’t it been proven, time and time again, that miracles do happen? And when better than during the most wonderful time of the year?
It all begins with a red notebook left carefully hidden in the Strand bookstore, containing a dare that the finder may or may not choose to complete, as well as instructions on returning the notebook so as to continue to game without the players ever meeting. Thus ensnared, Dash and Lily spend their respective winter vacations learning about each other via notebook, their thoughts, dreams, and wishes shuffled back and forth throughout Manhattan, in increasingly innovative and entertaining ways. It’s a build up of epic proportions, one that could either soar off into bliss or land with a disappointed, disillusioned crash.
There is a special place in my heart for Cohn & Levithan stories, because their characters are real, vibrant, fleshed-out to such a degree that I can easily imagine them riding the subway, browsing books at the Strand, living full lives somewhere in New York City, as if they just jumped from the pages and into existence. Dash and Lily are not blank canvases onto which we can insert our own personalities; they walk, talk, and breathe observations about their world, their families, and themselves so poignant, refreshing and, at times, hilarious, that we are given much more than another cute story of ‘boy meets girl’. Read this book, if you dare, but–you know what? Something tells me that you will.
Rating: 5/5–For unerringly apt references to various books and poems, surprisingly insightful red notebook scribbling, and flying babies in Washington Square Park.
Recommended For: Bibliophiles, logophiles, and fans of “You’ve Got Mail” (Just a hunch. Go with it.)
Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Ember (Imprint of Random House Children’s Books), New York, NY, 2011.