Oh my heart. This book is adorable. David Levithan has done it again. And Cohn has convinced me I might want to read her other work. The give and take of this book feels genuine, largely due to the style in which it was written. Levithan and Cohn took on the roles of Dash and Lily respectively and passed the novel back and forth with no conference about what was going to happen– just like Dash and Lily! Yes, there would have been edits and whatnot afterwards, but the flow of the book is easy and genuine. It was a joyful, easy read.
Are Dash and Lily breakthrough characters in the world of YA lit? No. They’re pretty typical of the indie/ hipster/nerdy field– a bit pretentious, overly knowledgeable, too smart for their own good. They could be extremely annoying, but they’re not. Dash is exactly as snarly as Lily’s relatives describe him. He’s actually a bit of a snot. But somehow, I grew to love him. He’s exactly the kind of teen character I tend to hate – except for the love of the OED. I’d love to be trapped in that basement room! The moments that turned me to in Dash’s favour – when he sets up a session for Lily to build her own muppet and the scene with the snowball fight. There’s something so charming about this disenchanted kid carrying his yogurt through the park giving in to these pre-teens and their snowball attack. It gives Dash more depth than all his pretentious, over-thought speeches he writes in the book.
Lily is a more relatable character. I liked her better than Dash. Maybe it’s because I get her more. She’s a weirdo, in your typical bookworm way. She’s socially inept. She’s got a surprising talent (soccer). She has no idea what to do with boys. It makes her charming. Her neurosis and her obsession with Christmas make her less so. She’s pretty damn sheltered, but I like that she’s not a brush off person. She’s not a whatever person. She’s an all in personality. When she likes something, she loves it. When she commits, that’s it, she’s all in – see: wearing only one boot for days until Dash returns the missing one. Her problem is that she’s so all in that she becomes detrimental to herself. She has no friends outside her family because she can’t let go of her intensity. She misses her first connection with Dash because she’s angry he discarded Snarly.
At the beginning of the novel, Dash and Lily are so enmeshed in their own little worlds that they’re unwittingly desperate for someone from outside those spheres. They’ve been spinning their wheels in the same relationships for so long they have no idea how to move forward with their own lives. They see their paths and they aren’t necessarily happy with them. But their rigid personalities start to wane the longer they write to each other. Dash becomes less abrasive. Lily becomes less intense. Their influence on each other molds them into deeper characters. They become more likable, but not in a generic, caustic way. They grow as they become more willing to explore the things that make them happy, or sad, or worried. Their changes ripple out to touch the other people in their lives. This delightful little story is a reminder that our actions can influence completely unexpected situations. If Lily’s parents hadn’t chosen to go to Fiji, none of this would have happened. She would never have left the notebook at the strand. One decision changed the lives of multiple people, in a very positive way. So many books focus on how decisions can impact us negatively. It’s nice to read a story that shows the positive influences.
This book is charming. There’s just no way around that.