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Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares

So last night I broke one of my cardinal Rules of Life. I broke it sort of by accident and I feel kind of guilty about it, but also kind of not.

I feel guilty about it because I have generally very few cardinal Rules of Life. “Always always brush my teeth before bed” is the only other inflexible Rule of Life that I can currently think of (except for obvious ones like not murdering people).

But I kind of don’t feel guilty about breaking my Rule (despite it being a betrayal of all I believe) because of how delightful an evening I ended up having.

All that build-up, and I’ll bet you are excited to find out just what, aside from proper dental hygiene, my (theoretically) inviolable Rule of Life could be.

Well, the Rule that I broke last night – which becomes increasingly difficult to not break with each passing year – is to keep any and all holiday-related entertainment confined between Thanksgiving and (roughly) New Year’s Day.

(It’s a wild life I live…)

As a person who loves all things Christmas, this has always been a very challenging but very rewarding system by which to live- no overdose on the holidays and my Christmas cheer remains appropriate and in check. Every year, though, as stores’ Christmas decor and Starbucks’s holiday lattes creep closer and closer to Halloween, I am finding my will to resist breaking down more and more.

Last night, for example, I bought a young adult Christmas romantic novel thinking it was simply a young adult WINTER romantic novel. This was a perfectly reasonable assumption since the cover contained both snow and a heart but nothing explicitly holiday-themed.

The book is Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, a collaboration novel by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (the authors of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Naomi and Ely’s No-Kiss List).

I bought it because I love romantic young adult novels and I particularly love the “Name and Name’s Blanky Thing” books by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. I also had today off of work and figured there was no better way to spend my obligation-free evening than reading two of my favorite ya authors’ latest effort!

So it turns out that Dash and Lily is a Christmas book – like, sure it’s more about people and relationships and stuff, but it’s still very Christmasy.

As soon as I realized this about the book I should have put it down and saved it for two weeks from now.

(Just like I should have changed that radio station away from Blue Christmas and I should have waited to buy Limited Edition Ghiradelli Peppermint Bark and I should have waited to peruse the aisles of Target’s back corner crazy holiday shop section…)

This realization happened at about paragraph number 2, halfway down page 1.

But seriously – already by then I was hooked!

David Levithan and Rachel Cohn tend to write delightfully precocious teenage characters and I fell for narrator Dash (short for Dashiell) straightaway. Before the bottom of the first page, he had already used the words “ersatz” and “philatelist” which are two of my favorite words, and he referenced his “natural aversion to human contact” (a condition from which I also suffer, even at the holidays).

Plus, in anticipation of my evening, I had set myself up in such an amazing cocoon of cozy-comfort that I could not conceive of turning back:

I was wearing pj’s and slipper socks (and a hat and scarf and huddled under a blankie, because my apartment was freakishly cold). I was camped out on my insanely comfy bed. I had put on a recently-discovered, wonderfully mellow album called Beachcombers Windowsill by a band called Stornoway. I settled into all this with an obscene portion of Annie’s mac and cheese (the kind with peace sign shaped macaroni! I ask you – is there a more delightful thing in all the world than macaroni shaped like peace signs? Aside from the pure whimsy of it, the shape provides the macaroni with a texture that is pure delish.)

In short, it was the perfect storm of comfiness and awesome, and on top of all that I had what turned out to be not just a romantic ya novel by two of my favorite authors but a CHRISTMAS romantic ya novel by two of my favorite authors, and Christmas romantic ya novels are only one of my favorite things EVER.

How could I resist?

Pangs of guilt plagued me throughout the evening (particularly when my sister came home from work and I know she was silently judging me, because she changed the radio station away from All I Want For Christmas Is You…a story she had told me…more than once.).

Any pangs of guilt were quickly erased by how happy I was in that moment, however.

It takes very few, very simple things to make me feel a genuine sense of peace; being cuddled up with my peace-pasta and Cohn-Levithan holiday brilliance was all it took for me to transcend the crapiness that had been my week up until then to attain a state of pure joy.

Also, the book was really good, so I’m not really sorry I read it.

I’m a terrible summary-writer but this book is about cynical Dash (hater of Christmas) and sweet Lily (lover of Christmas) who meet when he discovers a red notebook containing literary clues which she had left on a shelf at her favorite book store. Dash follows the clues, and leaves some more for Lily, who leaves more for him – and so on and so on, until they begin sharing more and more of themselves through the red notebook and the question of if they will meet and how that will turn out looms ever bigger.

I’m an even worse reviewer than I am a summarist, but here it goes. Like both of Cohn and Levithan’s novels before it, Dash and Lily paints a loving and very appealing portrait of New York City. It develops teen characters with depth, it entertains with its cleverness and humor and poignancy, and it discusses some complicated themes in a thoughtful and often insightful manner. It also contains within its pages a brilliant (truly brilliant) satiric depiction of a Pixar-like film called Collation about a stapler who falls in love with a piece of paper. For real – it is brilliant.

So, if you are open to reading a charming and sweet (but not at all saccharine or too-try-y-hard-y) holiday romance about teenagers, well I very definitely recommend this one. Snuggle up with some mac and cheese (preferably the kind whose cheese begins as a powder) and some sweet tunes and a warm blanket, and I dare you not to feel at least a little bit happy.

Of course maybe don’t pick the book up until November the 26th so that at least one of us is adhering to my unbreakable (but sort of breakable) Rule of Life. It is a pretty important one, after all, even if I can’t seem to follow it.

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