Dash & Lily's Book of Dares
by Cohn, Rachel; Levithan, David

In a story told in the alternating voices of Dash and Lily, two sixteen-year-olds carry on a wintry scavenger hunt at Christmastime in New York, neither knowing quite what-or who-they will find.

Rachel Cohn & David Levithan have written three books together. Their first,Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, was made into a movie starring Michael Cera and Kat Dennings, directed by Peter Sollett. Their second,Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List, was named a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age. For their third book,Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, David wrote Dash's chapters and Rachel wrote Lily's. Although they did not pass the chapters back and forth in a red Moleskine notebook, they did email them to each other without planning anything out beforehand. That's the way they work.

Rachel's previous books include Gingerbread, Shrimp, Cupcake, You Know Where to Find Me, andVery LeFreak. David's previous books include Boy Meets Boy, The Realm of Possibility, Are We There Yet?, Wide Awake, Love Is the Higher Law, andHow They Met, and Other Stories.

For more information about Rachel and David, you can find them at RachelCohn.com and DavidLevithan.com, respectively. You may also catch them in the aisles at the Strand.

In their third collaboration, Cohn and Levithan present another clever New York romance. Levithan writes the chapters narrated by Dash, a "bookish" 16-year-old spending Christmas break alone. He finds a red moleskin notebook amid the shelves of the Strand bookstore. "Are you going to be playing for the pure thrill of unreluctant desire?" asks Cohn's Lily in the first coded message of the notebook, with an invitation to respond. Lily is aglow with the yuletide and devastated that her parents are spending the holidays in Fiji. Armed with anonymity, Dash and Lily exchange the notebook in various locations around the Big Apple, filling it with their greatest hopes and deepest fears, and ultimately find themselves falling in love. Not surprisingly, the young pair's perceptions of each other don't entirely reflect reality; Dash's ex asks if he is in love with the girl writing in the book or the girl he is picturing in his head. The spirit of the season amplifies Dash and Lily's loneliness and heightens the connection between them, in another surefire hit from the creators of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2006). Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

Grudging hipster love story meets un-ironic Christmas romance in this dual-narrator tale—an awkward but ultimately acceptable pairing not unlike that of the two title characters. One afternoon in late December, pretentious, world-weary Dash visits "that bastion of titillating erudition," New York City's Strand Bookstore. Next to a copy of his beloved Franny and Zooey, Dash discovers a red notebook with instructions inside for a sort of scavenger hunt through the store. He responds with an assignment of his own, and soon he and the elusive Lily are sending each other on absurd adventures throughout the city. The two are ringed by a merry band of side characters—among them, an unnervingly friendly department-store Santa, a big-hearted oaf and a pair of gay, fedora-topped "unorthodox Jews"—but the real show-stealer is Lily, an unabashed cookie-baking, embroidered-reindeer-skirt-wearing, dog-loving and ever so occasionally tantrum-throwing force of nature. Believable? No. Formulaic? A bit. But good fun, with some wisdom to boot. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

December 21st

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.

It was Christmastime in New York City, the most detestable time of the year. The moo-like crowds, the endless visits from hapless relatives, the ersatz cheer, the joyless attempts at joyfulness-my natural aversion to human contact could only intensify in this context. Wherever I went, I was on the wrong end of the stampede. I was not willing to grant "salvation" through any "army." I would never care about the whiteness of Christmas. I was a Decemberist, a Bolshevik, a career criminal, a philatelist trapped by unknowable anguish-whatever everyone else was not, I was willing to be. I walked as invisibly as I could through the Pavlovian spend-drunk hordes, the broken winter breakers, the foreigners who had flown halfway across the world to see the lighting of a tree without realizing how completely pagan such a ritual was.

The only bright side of this dim season was that school was shuttered (presumably so everyone could shop ad nauseam and discover that family, like arsenic, works best in small doses . . . unless you prefer to die). This year I had managed to become a voluntary orphan for Christmas, telling my mother that I was spending it with my father, and my father that I was spending it with my mother, so that each of them booked nonrefundable vacations with their post-divorce paramours. My parents hadn't spoken to each other in eight years, which gave me a lot of leeway in the determination of factual accuracy, and therefore a lot of time to myself.

I was popping back and forth between their apartments while they were away-but mostly I was spending time in the Strand, that bastion of titillating erudition, not so much a bookstore as the collision of a hundred different bookstores, with literary wreckage strewn over eighteen miles of shelves. All the clerks there saunter-slouch around distractedly in their skinny jeans and their thrift-store button-downs, like older siblings who will never, ever be bothered to talk to you or care about you or even acknowledge your existence if their friends are around . . . which they always are. 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.

I was usually in the mood to look for nothing in particular when I went to the Strand. Some days I would decide that the afternoon was sponsored by a particular letter, and would visit each and every section to check out the authors whose last names began with that letter. Other days, I would decide to tackle a single section, or would investigate the recently unloaded tomes, thrown in bins that never really conformed to alphabetization. Or maybe I'd only look at books with green covers, because it had been too long since I'd read a book with a green cover.

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.

On this particular day, I decided to check out a few of my favorite authors, to see if any irregular editions had emerged from a newly deceased person's library sale. I was perusing a particular favorite (he shall remain nameless, because I might turn against him someday) when I saw a peek of red. It was a red Moleskine-made of neither mole nor skin, but nonetheless the preferred journal of my associates who felt the need to journal in non-electronic form. You can tell a lot about a person from the page she or she chooses to journal on-I was strictly a college-ruled man myself, having no talent for illustration and a microscopic scrawl that made wide-ruled seem roomy. The blank pages were usually the most popular-I only had one friend, Thibaud, who went for the grid. Or at least he did until the guidance counselors confiscated his journals to prove that he had been plotting to kill our history teacher. (This is a true story.)

There wasn't any writing on the spine of this particular journal-I had to take it off the shelf to see the front, where there was a piece of masking tape with the words DO YOU DARE? written in black Sharpie. When I opened the covers, I found a note on the first page.

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.

The handwriting was a girl's. I mean, you can tell. That enchanted cursive. Either way, I would've endeavored to turn the page.

So here we are.

1. Let's start with French Pianism.

I don't really know what it is,
but I'm guessing
nobody's going to take it off the shelf.
Charles Timbrell's your man.
Do not turn the page
until you fill in the blanks
(just don't write in the notebook, please)

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