The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (Allen and Unwin) PB RRP $19.99
Reviewed by Daniela Andrews
First there was Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, a romantic tale of how two teenagers met and fell in love via a series of challenges in a Moleskin notebook hidden in a bookshop. Now we have this festive, amusing sequel that checks in on the adorable couple twelve days ahead of Lily’s favourite day – Christmas Day.
Turns out that, one year on, things are not going so well. Lily is sad and withdrawn. Her grandfather’s recovery from a heart attack has been slow. Her brother, Langston, is moving out. Her parents are considering a move to Connecticut. She feels disconnected from her boyfriend, Dash, whom she loves but doesn’t believe the feeling is mutual. She is also indifferent to Christmas itself this year, raising alarm bells with Langston who promptly calls Dash for help. They need to capitalise on her favourite time of year to reach out to her somehow.
Co-writers Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (who brought us Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) have a playful, complementary writing style with an unusual technique – their books aren’t planned at all. Each writes a chapter from a particular character’s perspective. Once a chapter is written, it is sent to the other who then picks up where the story left off:
‘What happens along the way is usually a complete surprise to us as writers’. (Cohn)
The result, in this case, is a whimsical, hipster-esque, laugh-out-loud romantic comedy set in New York City at Christmastime. Each chapter is written from the perspective of either Dash or Lily, and is dated to help readers keep track of the flow of events.
The first twelve chapter titles are comically twisted to reflect the true-love offerings in the carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas. There are several references to pop music that will be appreciated by the target audience (15 years and older), including an invented hip-hop track so annoying that it made me groan and roll my eyes whenever it was referred to. (Now that’s great writing!) This is an entertaining read with a touch of absurdity … and lots of Christmas fun!