Sometime in the future I will try to read one Levithan book where he is the only author. But after reading this and Nick and Norah's Infinite PlaylistSometime in the future I will try to read one Levithan book where he is the only author. But after reading this and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, I've come to the conclusion that there's something about Cohn and Levithan collaborations that strikes me as incredibly tedious. It's like their premises are being pitched specifically to appeal to my pop cultural predelictions, but the subpar writing and character-building makes me resent that they're trying.
The novel begins with a disaffected teenage boy roaming the The Strand bookstore a few days before Christmas. He finds a red moleskine notebook where a stranger has written bizaare instructions. Dash (the boy) decides to take on the challenge and turn the tables on the puzzlemaker at the same time by creating his own puzzles. Lily, the owner of the red notebook, is intrigued by this twist and they take turns answering each others' dares, slowly revealing their emotional lives to each other by writing on the notebook. Along the way, wacky hijinks ensue, including an arrest that ends up being humorous because they're white and affluent and their lives don't get destroyed by police overreach.
Far be it for me to ding it for an overwrought rom com premise (I do, after all, love While You Were Sleeping) but the parts of the novel where the characters gallivant around New York to fulfill the dares and hunt for clues are by far the least interesting parts of the story for me. For one, the Dash chapters give in to the temptation of making him constantly sneer at the shallow accoutrements of a consumerist Christmas season, because that's so punk rock and edgy. The writing on the notebook also became a bat-signal that says: "We're gonna talk about feelings now." in a way that felt repetitive.
The thing that I did enjoy was Lily's backstory and family life, her presentation as a Rory Gilmoresque sheltered girl with infinite good cheer. I just enjoy willfully good-natured characters a lot. Moving past the super contrived premise of the notebook, I found her interactions with her brother, his boyfriend, and everyone else in her neighborhood amusing. I also can see why she'd be fascinated by the Dash she sees in the notebook. Dash, on the other hand, felt so generic as a character that I didn't get the feeling that there were any unplumbed depths in him. He probably listens to The Shins on his iPod, enjoy Jason Schwartzman movies, and sneers at cronuts.
I like this better than Nick and Norah, but I have a feeling that these authors are just not to my taste....more
Reading this again almost a decade since I first encountered PSF, it's very easy to see that there are kernels of intriguing and batshit ideas brewingReading this again almost a decade since I first encountered PSF, it's very easy to see that there are kernels of intriguing and batshit ideas brewing in this collection, but the sophistication that emerged from the subsequent volumes isn't quite here yet. The stories I liked I really loved, like The Family That Eats Soil and (duh) L'Aquilone Du Estrellas, but there are also stories like The Doppler Effect which for me is baffling and just... damp. I'm glad to note, however, that the oft repeated lore that science fiction is ignored in Filipino writing is somewhat belied here....more