Mind the gap, Dash & Lily by Rachel Cohn

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New Yorkers Dash and Lily are looking forward to pursuing their individual goals while maintaining a healthy relationship. For Dash, this means becoming a student at Oxford University while 18 year old Lily is not so sure of her pathway. She has a successful dog walking business which has expanded to include online sales of dog merchandise but there is family pressure for her to take up the offer of a position at a prestigious university. While the couple are prepared for a long distance relationship, after six months apart Lily is upset to learn that Dash is not coming home for Christmas. She decides to surprise him by flying to London where she hopes to sort out her future and reassure herself that Dash is ok. This is the third in the series and reprises the theme of puzzles and books in an Advent calendar Lily has made for Dash and some great literary references. The characters are relatable, but the plot is contrived and stilted, relying on a series of unlikely coincidences as the characters’ internal struggles take centre stage in the alternating first person narratives. The London setting is explained for a US audience; Barbican, 'an arts place like Lincoln Centre' p. 126, and a Twickenham thatched house is 'an ordinary English house' p. 91. There is the feel of a film script which suggests it might follow the recent Netflix series adaptation of the first book.   

It might have been helpful to have read the previous books, Dash and Lily's book of dares and The twelve days of Dash and Lily but while Dash and Lily say they are a couple, there is little sense of it in this story. They are both wrestling with issues of identity and the conflict arising from making personal choices while maintaining important connections. These characters come from privileged backgrounds and their affluence makes the whole angst seem self-indulgent but young adults who have seen the Netflix series or read the previous books and Sam and Ilsa’s Last Hurrah by the same authors will hopefully find that 'what a great book does, right? It traps you into feeling something important. Whether it’s about yourself, or society or ideally both' p. 222, and that has to be a good thing.

Themes: Identity, Relationships.

Sue Speck