Lily loves Christmas. She carols, hangs lights, and is positively dripping with the holiday spirit. But, this year, her parents are gone for the holidays and she’s stuck at home with her less than attentive older brother and his even less entertaining boyfriend. When Lily’s brother not so nicely suggests that she “get a life” and leave him alone, she is obliged to honor his request. He gives her the idea to make a new friend in a way she never would have thought of on her own.
Dash’s parents are both out of town for Christmas, leaving him to his own devices and blissfully alone during the worst time to live in New York– the freak-show that is the holiday season. On a routine visit to his favorite bookstore, Dash comes across a mysterious red note book with an even more mysterious message:
“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.”
This one, seemingly innocuous message sends Dash and Lily on a scavenger hunt beyond anything either of them could have possibly imagined; leading them to discoveries about themselves, each other, and the holiday season itself.
Full-disclosure time: I really don’t like Christmas. I don’t judge or look down upon those (like Lily) who positively ooze glitter during the holiday season… In fact, I envy them. I’m not a total scrooge, though. I enjoy putting up my tree on Black Friday (and not a second before!) and I squeal like a 5 year old when Santa rides through my neighborhood on the fire truck. I just don’t have the same holiday glee that seeps out of the pores of those around me.
That being said, when I went in search for a book or two for the Ho-Ho-Ho Read-A-Thon, I went searching for books that weren’t the traditional “finding love on Christmas” or “saving Santa” books, but I still wanted something that would help to pull me out of my funk. I found all that and more in Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares! I absolutely loved every freakin’ thing about this book!
First, let’s talk about setting. The novel takes place all over New York City (one of my favorite places), but the most intricately explored landmark is The Strand bookstore. If you haven’t been here, add it to your bucket list. The Strand is 4 levels of largely unorganized books and is what bibliophilia is made of. I’m not kidding… there’s over 18 miles of books and it would take YEARS to discover them all. So when Dash & Lily’s opening scene took place at the strand, I was instantly hooked.
Now for the best part- Dash and Lily! Beyond setting, plot, and everything else, they are what truly makes this story. If they weren’t so well drawn and so perfect, their book of dares wouldn’t be half the book that it is.
Wax poetic all you want about the misanthropy of today’s youth, but this kid is my personal super-hero. If his snarkitude and wry humor didn’t appeal to me from page one, his word usage would have done me in anyway. Dash’s character says things and views the world in a way that somebody who reads the dictionary for fun (like myself) would envy. And I love that he manages to soften toward Christmas (cliche, but necessary) without loosing his “snarl”
A little more one-dimensional than Dash, but I still love her to pieces. She’s all the glittery sleigh bells and heart full of mistletoe that I would love to be. She deals with some pretty crappy stuff throughout this story, but the magic of Lily is that she’s able to keep a positive attitude. I envy and hope to emulate that whenever possible.
Although they started out as complete opposites, through their relationship with one-another and their experience with the mysterious red notebook, Dash and Lily find similarities in their differences and both are changed for the better. It’s not an uncommon theme, but I just loved these characters so much that it just seemed to be done better here than it has in other books.
I won’t get all mushy here and say that this book has changed my outlook on Christmas, but I will say this– it does give me hope. There are little things about the holiday season that I absolutely do enjoy, and if Dash can find them and become a little less snarly, so can I.