Thursday, February 24, 2011
Review: Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
Piper, a moderately deaf high school senior, unexpectedly finds herself the manager of a high school band by the culturally enlightened name of Dumb. Her job is to get Dumb some paying gigs, but Piper soon finds out that being a manager consists of much more than simply financial savvy. Piper must deal with musical shortcomings, in-band tensions, a skeptical and uncomprehending family, and, perhaps, most of all, her doubt in her own ability to break out of her quiet good-girl mold and demand that the world listen to her.
Antony John’s novel would more appropriately be called Five Flavors of AWESOME. This rocking good book will make you want to jump up and cheer, for wonderful characters, great narration, and an absorbing and uplifting tale.
I’m really quite bowled over at how well John captures the voice of a teenage girl. Piper may be deaf, but she struggles with many of the same issues as other teenagers: her dreams of independence and acceptance battle her sense of familial obligation, she wishes she could blend into the crowd yet simultaneously wants to be respected. Incredibly, Piper never falls into the YA cliché of the smart and quiet good girl who breaks out of her shell. She is down-to-earth and resilient despite years of having to struggle against the current, particularly her family’s subpar ways of dealing with her deafness. She is truly a character that I would be proud to call a friend, and gives contemporary YA female protagonists everywhere a good name.
A story cannot propel itself on the strength of a well-written protagonist alone, and happily supporting characters in FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB are just as fascinating, just as complex. The band members different personalities and problems with one another are believable and add a good amount of conflict to the story without being too messy or overwhelming. The changes that Piper and her family undergo in their relationships with one another truly take the cake, however. It is subtle yet prominent, optimistic without wandering into unrealistic happily-ever-afters.
FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB is not simply a book about the music business, or being deaf. It is, rather, the story of an incredible girl who learns how to be proud of who she is, and beautiful in her confidence. Highly recommended for those who enjoy a strong read that reminds us about why we love contemporary YA: for that gem of a character into whose journey we get irrevocably swept.
Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Cover discussion: 3.5 out of 5 - I like the colors, but am not sure how I feel about the model, and how she's posed.
Dial Books / Nov. 11, 2010 / Hardcover / 352pp. / $16.99
Borrowed from library.