“Well, this novel certainly looks interesting,” I said to myself as I requested it from NetGalley. “…Wait, it was originally released in 2010?” I then headed over to GoodReads and Amazon, and found a few decent reviews. “All the more reason to read it, then!”
My face currently resembles a bulldog chewing a giant wasp that had recently taken a bath in lemon juice, which also happened shortly after I realised these authors were responsible for the insipid fluff that was Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Which, might I remind you, is a film sitting right next to the first ten minutes of Juno as one of the films I despise with every fibre of my being. (Also sitting in that line-up is The Notebook and Twilight, so you have an accurate gauge for my most hated films.)
Alright, let’s get into the story, which alternates between two protagonists, the first of whom being Dash. He is a misanthropic teenage boy and basically, a complete retread of Will Grayson #2 from David Levithan’s collaboration with John Green. I can forgive misanthropy if there’s a genuine reason behind it, and it’s not the typical teenage boy who’s picked up some philosophical teachings here and there and suddenly muses on the possibility of being a soulless automaton of the corporate machine kind of crap. I’m fine with disillusionment, but there has to be some kind of good reason behind it.
Dash has none.
Dash is just a whiny, annoying little pustule and I hated reading every single chapter he narrated. Sorry, David Levithan. I was okay with Will Grayson #2 in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, but this is just fartoo much.
Barely 1% in I was side-eying the book for letting such a pretentious little sod narrate the events as they happened.
‘I would never care about the whiteness of Christmas. I was a Decemberist, a Bolshevik, a career criminal, a philatelist trapped by unknowable anguish.’
Also, just so you know, a philatelist is a stamp-collector. I’ve collected stamps since I was 12 and I’ve never known there to be some ‘unknowable anguish’ behind the hobby. Even scratching beyond the surface of that description makes no sense. Does it mean you have a lot of pen-friends but you don’t get out very much? Does it mean you’re upset that some extremely rare stamps will never get to be placed in your album? What does it mean!?
Especially in relation to Decemberists, Bolsheviks and career criminals. Let me guess, little Dash doesn’t really know what these words actuallymean, but he’s trying to sound clever anyway. Aww. Somebody deserves a lollipop.
‘I walked as invisibly as I could through the Pavlovian spend-drunk horses, the broken winter breakers, the foreigners who had flown halfway across the world to see the lighting of a tree without realising how completely pagan such a ritual was.’ (1%)
Yeah, here’s another thing I can’t stand – people who think they’re better than everybody else. Fine, I will admit to being silently judgemental of stupid people at times, but it’s the snobby air that Dash takes here that really rubs me the wrong way and made me want to jump into the novel wielding a giant tuna fish so this kid could get a well-deserved slap across the face.
Also, I think pretty much every adult in the northern hemisphere knows about how certain elements of Christmas are derived from pagan Yuletide celebrations. I think somebody deserves a gold star to go with their lollipop and courtesy wet fish slap, Dashy-boy!
‘“Do you know me?” I persisted. “Did I grind you to a pulp in kindergarten, and are you now getting sadistic pleasure from this petty revenge? Stephen Little, is that you? Is it? I was much younger then, and foolish to have nearly drowned you in that water fountain. In my defence, your prior destruction of my book report was a completely unwarranted act of aggression.”‘(3%)
Just… who talks like this, David Levithan? I really want to know who. I know there are miserable, drippy teenage boys out there quoting cod philosophy. I knew some at high school, but they generally don’t talk like this all the time.
In fact, in the quote above, Dash is talking to a bookstore clerk. It made me realise that I should have a trap door in front of the desk if I ever own a book shop, just in case a pretentious twat like Dash ever comes up to the counter and says something like that. Ahem.
“Happy Hanukkah,” I said. Because I always liked to say the wrong holiday, just to see how the other person would react.
Priya took it in her stride. (4%)
Oh yes, because that’s a really nice thing to say to somebody who’s from a different cultural background to you. Just to gauge their reaction, you say? What’s next, sprinkling mildly racist and nasty things into everyday conversations to see if the person you’re trying to offend picks up on them? Dash, you are a terrible, awful person and I am about to throw the bloody towel in on this book.
Sorry David Levithan, but please take some lessons from John Green in how to write misanthropes with heart and personality, because Dash has none. He also just earned himself another smack across the face with my freshly-caught, dolphin-friendly tuna.
Oh, what’s this? A new character in a new chapter? Alright, I’m just going to scream into a pillow for a bit and return once I’m sufficiently calm.
Back! Aww, Lily’s a sweetheart, isn’t she?
In fact, why couldn’t this book solely be narrated from Lily’s point of view? Why cruel world, why not!?
Lily is adorable. She’s not a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, she’s just a regular, ordinary girl who looks at the world and sees everything good about it. She came up with the idea of a scavenger hunt in a book shop, and letting the bookseller know about her plan so any potential adventurers can’t ask him for help. Her clues are written as riddles within a notebook, and you have to go looking for the books detailed, and find the correct page number, sentence, word, et cetera.
Naturally, the quest gets harder as you progress, and I suppose it’s the perfect thing to preoccupy Dash’s time. You know, when he’s not wandering around New York at Christmastime being rude to his school friends and thinking about how he’s the only person who sees through the blatant consumerism and thepagan ritual which the populace are so ignorant of.
Unfortunately, even though Lily was cute as a button and I really liked her chapter, when I got to yet another Dash chapter, I just put my e-reader down and refused to touch it for another week.
I skipped ahead to some of Lily’s chapters, and while I do like her narrative voice, the story just isn’t doing anything for me.
I really do wish that Lily had been the sole narrator of this book. Perhaps it could have been a surprise for her that the one to play along in her game was actually a bit of an awful person and not the sweet, sensitive and bookish guy she was originally picturing. I’m sure that’s probably explored later in the book, but I just couldn’t get past more than 20% of this book.
Ultimately I felt no attachment to the story in general either. I didn’t care if Dash or Lily got together, or even if they ever met and sparked up a friendship. Or if the little red notebook scavenger hunt was really worth all the time and effort both parties had to go through. It really isn’t enough of a story to make the reader want to continue. Well, not this reader, anyway.
So, we have a pretentious dullard of a boy voicing half of the chapters, and a lovely, sweet and funny girl voicing the other half, tied to a flat storyline with nothing but a picturesque backdrop (whee, New York City at Christmas!) that is ultimately window dressing to mask the poor plot. I’m going to be merciful and add on 0.5 of a mark for Lily, but yeah. I’m not averse to brainless, fluffy romance novels, but this one just hit all the wrong nerves for me and didn’t keep my interest at all. 1.5/5.