Posted by Kayla Kenney | Dec 16, 2020 | Books
This year, a young adult fiction book called “Dash and Lily” became a Netflix original series. Here are three reasons to read and watch “Dash and Lily.”
In October of 2010, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan released “Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares” to the world of young adult fiction. The co-written book takes place during Christmas-time in New York. Dash declares Christmas the most detestable time of the year. Lily, however, views Christmas as “the most wonderful time of the year.” Dash and Lily find themselves without their parents (and alone) for Christmas.
In a plea to give him and his new boyfriend some privacy, Lily’s brother devises a plan to keep Lily occupied. He helps plant a red moleskin notebook on Lily’s favorite bookstore shelf in what happens to be Dash’s favorite bookstore. The notebook leaves a set of dares that lead Dash around the bookstore and eventually out into the lively, Christmas-garnished city.
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.“Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares,” Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
The two characters embark on an adventure of back-and-forth dares, clues, and missed rendezvous through the red notebook, getting to know each other along the way. Dash and Lily wonder if, when they finally meet, they will live up to the expectations they’ve imagined in their heads. Could their real-life selves connect as well as they do in the notebook?
This November, Netflix released an original series as an adaptation of the book. It’s not entirely the same as the book (like most adaptations), but it comes pretty close. Portraying the same spirit and themes (and pretty much nailing the characters), “Dash & Lily” is a charming holiday read and watch that I would recommend to not only young adults but adult audiences as well.
THE UNIQUE STRUCTURE
If you love young-adult fiction, you’ve probably heard of Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. They’re well known for co-writing multiple books together, including “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” which became a major motion picture starring Michael Cera and Kat Dennings in 2008.
Structured the same way as “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” “Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares” is a back-and-forth novel, with Cohn writing the female (Lily’s) perspective and Levithan writing the male (Dash). The authors start with a premise, and then, Cohn writes one character’s perspective while Levithan writes the other, alternating chapters without much planning or talking during the writing process.
We alternate chapters and don’t really plan much about the story or talk about it much as we’re writing. I often say this is both the best and worst part of our collaboration—I have no idea how you will respond to what I send you! Sometimes that means I’m disappointed that you didn’t pick up a bone I threw you in a chapter, but usually it results in me being totally inspired by where you took your next chapter because it’s never where I expected.Rachel Cohn in an interview with David Levithan for Publishers Weekly
For the duo, this type of collaboration is nothing new. But for most authors, it’s an unconventional way of writing. This unique structure is part of what makes the book so great. The different perspectives also make their way into the Netflix series, with the first episode being from Dash’s point of view and the second being from Lily’s.
This tactic also makes for a unique love story. The way it plays out, the book and series usually show the characters separate from each other. Only the audience sees their chance encounters. Dash and Lily get to know each other through their words, without actually meeting or seeing each other. They form a bond that focuses more on their personalities and less on appearances.
With the bond formed through the notebook, Dash & Lily presents the age-old message of not judging a book by its cover. Dash and Lily manage to interact without seeing each other. In the show, they connect in person before they even know who the other one is. All it takes is one chance meeting and one conversation. Lily’s self-conscious weirdness (being the only girl dressed in a unique, Christmas-themed outfit at a party) charms Dash, while Dash’s antisocial behavior resonates with Lily.
During the party scene, the story shows how believing in yourself builds self-esteem. In the book, Lily is presented with a dare to go to a punk-rock show at a night club. This dare terrifies Lily to the point of almost not completing the dare, afraid of embarrassing herself and losing Dash’s interest. She ends up going to the club, though. And then, she freaks out and locks herself in the bathroom. To her surprise, she finds a message scribbled on the mirror in Dash’s familiar scrawl. It reads, “Get back out there, Lily.” The moment she spots this is so precious and spine-tingling.
Something about knowing that you knew how I felt made it okay to go back out there. And this time, I saw the good. People having fun. I could join them or stay in my shell. I joined them, and it was like a whole new world opened up to me.Lily from “Dash & Lily” the Netflix original seriesLily from “Dash & Lily” the Netflix original series
Lily musters up the courage to go back out into the crowd. She dances her heart out like no one’s watching, losing herself in the music. Because a semi-stranger encouraged Lily to go outside her comfort zone and be her weird self, she opened up and loved it.
“Dash & Lily” also shows that it’s possible to see good in the bad and hope for the best. Lily says it best in one sentence, “When there’s rain, I look for the rainbow.” Throughout most of the book and show, she always tries to look on the upside. One example is her love of Christmas and how that doesn’t change amid a Christmas without her whole family. She believes it truly is the most magical time of the year. And she thinks the notebook that brings her and Dash together is proof of that. It’s the light she was looking for during this unfortunate Christmas.
We make our own magic. This notebook is magic. And we see what we look for. I hope you’ll keep looking for the good stuff.Lily from “Dash & Lily” the Netflix original series
THE FESTIVE, HOLIDAY SPIRIT
The first sentence from Lily’s point of view in “Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares” is “I love Christmas.” She goes on to say, “I love everything about it: the lights, the cheer, the big family gatherings, the cookies, the presents piled high around the tree, the goodwill to all.” Lily loves Christmas because, to her, Christmas has always been about love. And the magical love story that comes with the red notebook only reinforces her passion for the joyful holiday.
Even though Lily’s parents are gone, she oozes cheerfulness for the holiday season by decorating her house. She also bakes Christmas cookies and forms a caroling troupe. As an even more elegant way to show holiday cheer, Lily crafts holiday-themed outfits, including a light-up Christmas tree sweater.
Because Lily loves Christmas so much, she is shocked when she first learns that Dash despises it. Through their notebook correspondence, she manages to change his view a little bit, though. On one dare, she sends him to an outrageously decked-out house with Christmas lights, Santas, nutcrackers, and more. At that house, Dash looks past the superficial decorations and fake joy. He manages to see the love and happiness that Lily exudes effortlessly.
I see plastics nutcrackers, fake Santas, and nothing that’s real. I see an older couple who probably come here every year to take a picture in front of the same house, probably have years of those photographs framed on their wall. I see them holding hands, and I think how they must know each other very well.Dash from “Dash & Lily” the Netflix original series
During this time of year, you can usually find holiday cheer just about everywhere. But this year has created challenges for everyone. “Dash & Lily” is a light-hearted book and show that will get you into the holiday spirit or boost your mood. The book is an atypical romantic comedy that is quick, fun, and festive; the show is all of that and more. I would encourage anyone in need of a pick-me-up to read or watch “Dash & Lily.” I reread the book within a few days and watched the show in one sitting.
Both the book and show wrap up nicely, but the book does have two sequels. Netflix has yet to release any renewal information for the show. The show can run for another two seasons, with plots already developed through the books. So if you can’t get enough of Dash and Lily after “Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares” and a watch-through of season one, check out the sequels, “The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily” and “Mind the Gap, Dash & Lily.”