While browsing his favorite bookstore, The Strand, Dash finds a red notebook that contains a challenge. He wanders through the store collecting the books that will lead to his next clue and when he finishes it, he discovers that he is now playing a game with a girl named Lily. Both are minus parents at Christmas and looking for some distraction in the form of this notebook. But as the notebook gets passed back and forth and the challenges get stranger for each person, Dash begins to wonder if real Lily will live up to notebook Lily. Meanwhile, Lily is just trying to break free from her family and be a normal teenager. It all comes to a head when a huge bull mastiff dog lands them in jail together, and that time together makes them think about being together beyond the notebook.
I love both of these authors. You already know about my love for Everyday by David Levithan, and Beta by Rachel Cohn and I could wax nostalgic all day about their backlist, including the famous Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist, which wasn't completely ruined by the movie. I love the back and forth of these characters and how completely different they are. Dash is a worldly, brooding loner, while Lily is completely over protected and childlike. Also, the supporting characters are just as wonderful, with dog-like Boomer, sullen cousin Mark, Mrs. Basil E. and grandpa who is a sweet-hearted hound dog.
What I appreciated most about this book was that Lily grew up. She began as shy, rather outcast Shrilly, but she had made herself that way. By the end she had so much more than Dash. She'd had an adventure, got a dog, and found some real friends from her soccer team that up until that point she had largely ignored. Her growth was the star for me.
But Dash grew in his own way too. He came to realize that his previous relationship with Sofia wasn't the right thing, and that you can't dream someone up on paper and expect them to be that in real life. I feel like Dash had his own community too by the end of the book, which is refreshing. In finding each other, Dash and Lily each were given so much more.
And let's comment on some of the snarkiness. The Disney movie Collation sounds real. The love between office supplies and how they are personified was hilarious and spot on. If Levithan and Cohn would ever want to truly sell their souls for profit, that movie would be it. And the mommy-bloggers with their code crimson! Plus the fact that Boomer reads the mommy blogs was just too precious. I don't have a ton of room to talk, since I'm a book blogger, but you don't see me sending out code crimsons when someone destroys a book.
Overall, this is a great read. It's quick, fun. light, but not sugar. It's not some guilty pleasure book, but just a genuinely fun and entertaining read. I would love to see this become a movie. It would be such a great non-cheesy Christmas movie. Like Nick and Nora with santa and a snarly muppet. I'm seeing it in my head and it's perfect!
Let's pose the expiration date question. I loved it, but as we all know, I'm still living in a suspended adolescence. This isn't a big crossover book. I would say that if you're not a true YA fan, then this book wouldn't be for you. You need to have the right sense of humor for this book, and liking Everyday and Beta will not lead to a love for this book. Liking Wide Awake or Gingerbread will lead you to this book. You have to be able to laugh at it. I would say if you like the show Two Broke Girls, you'll find this funny. So, yes to teen readers, yes to most twenty-somethings, and for those of us 30 and up, read with caution.