Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

By: Rachel Cohn, David Levithan

Series: Dash & Lily

Book Number: 1

Star Rating:

Sensuality Rating:



Spoiler Disclaimer


Over his holiday break, while perusing the stacks at The Strand, Dash comes upon a red notebook tucked between other volumes. Curious, he opens it to discover a dare from the stranger who placed it there. Bored and intrigued by the game, he plays along, and over the next couple of weeks, he and the journal's original owner, Lily, pass the notebook back and forth, engaging in a series of increasingly difficult dares. As they correspond through the notebook, they find someone in each other who appears to be the perfect romantic match. But can their chemistry in the written word translate outside the notebook and into the real world, or have they both only become enamored of the idealized picture of each other they've created in their own minds?


Dash & Lily's Book of Dares is a contemporary, young adult novel that is the first in Rachel Cohn and David Levithan's Dash & Lily series. One day over the holidays, while perusing the stacks at The Strand, his favorite book store, Dash happens across a red, Moleskine notebook tucked between the other volumes. Curious, he opens it and finds that the person who placed it there is challenging him to a little scavenger hunt. Since he's bored, he decides to play along. Over the next several days, he and the owner of the journal, who he discovers is named Lily, continue to give each other increasingly difficult dares to complete. As the two of them correspond through the notebook, they also begin to learn about each other and start to wonder if they might have found the perfect romantic match in one another. But when Dash finally meets Lily in person, it isn't quite what he'd thought it would be, which leads both of them to worry that they might have created an idealized picture of each other in their minds that can't be replicated in the real world.

Dash's parents went through a bitter divorce when he was young and he has a strained relationship with both of them. Not a fan of Christmas and not really wanting to spend the holiday with either of them, he concocts a scheme to get both parental figures out of town so that he can enjoy his Christmas vacation alone. A bibliophile, Dash's favorite store is The Strand, and one day while wandering the aisles, he comes upon the red notebook and decides to spice up his rather boring existence by doing what the owner asks. It turns out to be fun and knowing his new friend is likely a teenage girl also piques his interest. Dash had been dating a girl who moved to Spain months ago, which led to them breaking up. He knows that she wasn't the right person for him, but his feelings about her and relationships in general are a little jumbled. As Dash continues to complete Lily's dares and learn more about her, he starts to wonder if she could be the person he's been searching for, someone who will complement him in a way his ex didn't. But when he finally finds Lily and meets her in person, it's not the magical moment he'd hoped for, leaving him a bit bummed. However, fate and their friends and family help facilitate a do-over that could lead to something great. I liked Dash for his bookish nature and his introspective personality. I also appreciated the way he behaved like a gentleman with Lily, protecting her in a moment of vulnerability, and how he'd paid attention and knew Lily well enough to come up with the perfect date for her to cap off the story.

Lily's parents are also out of town for the holidays, celebrating their anniversary, but unlike Dash, she's not particularly happy about it. She loves Christmas on a grand scale and misses having them around and taking part in their family traditions. Instead, she's stuck with her older, college-aged brother, Langston, who kind of lets her do her own thing. Generally that's okay, though, because Lily is a good girl who doesn't usually get into trouble. She's also responsible enough to have her own dog-walking business, which she started because her parents wouldn't allow her to have the pets she adores. Lily is kind of a misanthrope who doesn't have many friends, much less a boyfriend, and she longs to finally get her first kiss. Langston and his boyfriend, Benny, helped Lily come up with the red notebook idea, but she didn't expect it to take off like it does. The person who begins corresponding with her is very intriguing, which makes her excited each time he gives her a new dare. The dares also help her to move out of her comfort zone and be more adventurous. As she learns more about Dash, she starts to eagerly anticipate meeting him in person, but when it finally happens, she's taken her adventurousness a little too far and he finds her in an out-of-character situation that makes her look bad. Lily fears that their relationship could be over or that they might forever be relegated to the friend zone until fate and her family step in. I could relate to Lily. She's sweet and innocent but full of life and vitality. She's very much the yin to Dash's yang. I think she understands him well and likewise gives him the surprise of his life on their first real date.

Since this is a young adult story, this is where I'll evaluate it for potentially objectionable content. I didn't find a lot that was concerning, but there are a few things with which some readers might take issue. As far as language, there are a smattering of profanities, including a few f-bombs. Lily lies to her grandfather about where she was after getting caught breaking curfew. She also lies a second time about meeting a boy while out with some other acquaintances. Lily accidentally gets drunk after sampling several of said acquaintances' alcoholic drinks. Langston's boyfriend sleeps over, and Dash has two gay friends in a relationship who sleep over in the same bed. A boy and a girl share a bed platonically for comfort. A boy and a girl share a pretty chaste kiss. A few times Lily mentions tingles in her body when thinking of boys. There is some mild sexual innuendo peppered throughout, but no graphic sexual content of any kind. Overall I would say that this book is generally appropriate for the teen audience at which its aimed.

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares is composed in dual first-person narration, with Mr. Levithan writing Dash's perspective and Ms. Cohn writing Lily's. Both GoodReads and Amazon have Dash & Lily's Book of Dares categorized as romance, so I went into reading it expecting it to be a bit more romantic than it actually turned out to be. I suppose in the strictest sense of the genre, it could be classified as such, given that Dash and Lily start falling for each other as they play their game and get to know each other in epistolary format, and they also have what I'd call an HFN ending. However, they aren't physically together for the overwhelming majority of the story. I also felt like they both tended to overthink falling in love, rather than just letting it happen. Since Dash and Lily don't spend a lot of time in each other's presence, there are lots of other characters, mainly Lily's large extended family and Dash's friends, with whom they play off of throughout. All of these characters are fun and colorful, but I thought it made the story almost equally about their relationships with their friends and family members as it was about their budding relationship with each other. I adore a good scavenger hunt, so when the story began, I was immediately sucked into it, as Dash and Lily challenge each other, but their interactions via the journal seemed to quickly move away from puzzles and searching for clues and into more philosophical territory. I begrudgingly admit that it helped them get to know one another, but I thought it slowed the pace of the story and added to the sense that they were overthinking things. While I may not have ended up loving the book, I still thought it was cute, and overall, I enjoyed it. I look forward to checking out the Netflix series based on it, as well as reading the further adventures of Dash and Lily in the remaining books.


Rachel Cohn

David Levithan 


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