Review: Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares Is a Witty, Warm Holiday Celebration

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares is a charming YA rom-com steeped in yuletide cheer.

I’ve hopped back onto the YA novel train, my friends. 

On the second week of November, I developed an obsession with a cute Netflix show called Dash & Lily. OK. Obsessed doesn’t even begin to describe how much I *adore* this show. Dash & Lily cast a magical Christmassy rom-com spell (curse?) on me, so much that I rewatched it FOUR times. And I’m planning to watch it again. 

A week after an arguably unhealthy amount of rewatches, I decided to order the YA book by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan from Half Price Books, as one does. I even bought myself a red Moleskine, similar to the ones that Mrs. Basil E gifts Lily. For weeks, I contemplated whether or not to get a red puffer like the one Midori Francis wore on the show. (I didn’t get one, and my wallet thanks me.) In the words of Carrie Fisher in When Harry Met Sally, I know, I know, I know. I am way too old for this. LET ME BE. 

Anyway, I am pleased to report that the Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, originally published in 2010, is lovely. The book, as acolytes of the Netflix show may know, starts with a teenage girl named Lily planting a red Moleskine at The Strand Bookstore. When the curmudgeonly Dash picks it up, the two send each other on dares all across New York City over winter break. Dash is grumpy and despises Christmas, while the ever-so-chipper Lily loves everything about it. Will disaster strike when they finally meet? You’ll have to read and find out!

Dash & Lily is truly funny, in ways that are both warm and bone-dry. In a sense, it reminds me a little bit of David Sedaris’s memoir writing. Cohn and Levithan wield humor on multiple levels, using it linguistically and situationally. Whether it’s Lily describing holiday shopping as being sardined between crowds of people, or her catching a baby flying out of a stroller, the cheeky humor gives this book just the right amount of uplift to get the reader going. Sometimes the humor doesn’t quite hold up to this decade (i.e. edgy humor that’s kind of, well, disparaging), but these faux pas moments are few and far between in the book. 

The characters are quite endearing, and they imbue the novel’s warmth and fizziness with a note of depth. I’ll just flat out say it: Dash has the potential to be very annoying. As a grumpy, bookish, fake-deep dude who loves the Oxford English Dictionary and hates Christmas, he could have been a real pretentious jerk. Instead, he possesses a charm in his curmudgeonly and awkward ways, kind of like an adolescent Marc Maron if you will. Likewise, Lily could have been cloying in her sweetness, but Cohn and Levithan have written her with an edginess that isn’t mean-spirited or selfish. While the book relies on familiar character tropes, no one feels limited to their trope. Even quaint minor characters feel rounded out, like Grandpa, Boomer, and Mrs. Basil E. 

One quibble I have with the novel (as well as the show) is that I wish Lily had more relationships with the women in her life besides Mrs. Basil E. I would have liked to see her talk more with the girls on her soccer team or the women in her choir group! That said, there are two more Dash & Lily books, so there’s definitely room for Lily to grow.

If you’re searching for bubbly holiday cheer that’s genuinely witty and snappy, look no further than Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares. Anyone who loves the Netflix show will appreciate the novel’s warmth and cheekiness.



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