Dash and Lily is a delightful start to holiday season on Netflix


Make sure to put Dash and Lily on your holiday watch list!

Okay, Netflix Lifers, buckle in for this peppermint striped love fest of a review for Dash and Lily, Netflix’s adaptation of the YA novel Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.

FYI, I have not read the book, so I cannot tell you if this delightful series is true to its source material. What I can say is that if you’re looking for a fun pick to add to your holiday watch list then choose this series about two teenagers falling in love via a red notebook in which they trade dares and personal stories. Netflix has basically gift-wrapped this for you as a wonderful start to the Christmas season.

See, Dash & Lily has that YA magic a good helping of people have been escaping through for nearly two decades. I mean we know two relatively well-off teenagers from New York most likely would not be running around the city fulfilling dares that help them grow as people, but there’s something about the holidays that makes us want to believe a cynical, blond white kid who looks like he never sleeps would wander in the Strand and change his life by stumbling across a not so random red notebook in the stacks.

It’s the kind of thing a lot of us wish would have happened when we were teens. It’s why we read books about teenagers whose worlds were turned upside down and right side up by some quirky bit of mischief and fortune. It’s why we still read them. Dash & Lily captures the quality of that in-between space of not quite being a child but not having lived enough or learned enough about ourselves and others to be considered an adult.

The series takes a grumpy, bah humbug spouting boy and pairs him with an eccentric, dances badly to the beat of her own drum, social outcast of a half-Asian girl and helps them see what parts of themselves needs working on. The two of them change over the course of two weeks. They learn how to slow down, speed up, get out there, and reflect.

Sometimes it takes a Jewish punk rock show on the seventh night of Hanukkah to unwind and power through your insecurities. Other times it takes rolling mochi with older Japanese women who think your technique is garbage. But whatever it takes, it’s usually something or, in Dash and Lily’s case, someone who’s the catalyst for the change you want to see in yourself and in your life.

Dash and Lily is different in the sense that there aren’t really a lot of holiday tv series especially not ones for teenagers. But it’s familiar in its coolness, it’s New York City mythology. That ever-alluring vibe of the big city being exactly where things like a boy trying to find you with a red boot that was once a part of a Broadway play could happen.

And the series doesn’t forget its roots. This is a YA adaptation. Of course, the plot conveniently works so that Dash and Lily’s shenanigans align like serendipity is somehow incredibly precise and the universe plus their friends and family are on their side. Of course, their pasts come up to nearly throw a wrench in the whole thing. Of course, this is a fantasy tinged with elements of reality that manage not to break the bubble of knowing exactly how this will play out.

That’s the point! It’s comfortable in its predictability while still being odd enough to delight and surprise us. Dash and Lily takes a premise that really only works within the confines of the YA story structure and makes you forget the likelihood of this ever happening is so incredibly low, it’s laughable. We know the kids are too cool, well dressed, and adorably awkward to feel real but that’s okay.

Dash is every cynical, classically well-read boy with a love for the arts and music that skews older in every YA novel ever. Except he’s not a brunette. And Lily is his brightly dressed counterpart with a chipper disposition who is also classically well-read with a penchant for music that skews older. Except she’s a girl of color which is more common now in YA than it was when the book came out.

But Dash and Lily works despite playing into the same tropes we’ve all seen before. I credit the chemistry of the cast for that because nearly every element of this series works.

Does it have moments when it drags? Sure. After a while, you’ll want these two to just meet already. Does it play with your ability to suspend disbelief? Absolutely. The coincidences and convenient plot beats will pile up on each other but go with it anyway. And does the third act where things start to fall apart seem shaky? A bit, but, honestly, this series is such a good time, y’all.

If you want to laugh, if you want to smile, if you want to jam while watching a series with a killer soundtrack then watch Dash and Lily. You can do it in under four hours thanks to its bite-sized episodes that are less than 30 minutes long. I’m telling you, kick off your holiday season with a great Netflix original series where two kids learn to be brave, bold, and forthright in what they want for themselves and each other over their Christmas break.

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