Saturday, January 19, 2013

Book: Five Flavors of Dumb by John Antony

Book: Five Flavors of Dumb
Author: John Antony
Published: 2010
Source: Local Library

Teen rock band Dumb has a new manager. She doesn’t know anything about music. She barely knows anything about the band members, narcissistic Josh, passive Will, and hardcore Tash. But she is ferociously good at chess, and she’s promised Dumb’s front-man Josh that she can wheel-deal Dumb’s way to stardom, or at least to paying gigs. Oh, and she’s deaf.

As Piper dives deeper into the world of hard rock and struggles to juggle the five (she adds two new members) personalities that make up Dumb, she gains self-confidence and a better understanding of both music and how families, her own in particular, function . . . or don’t.

This won the Schneider Book award a couple of years ago, and I generally add award-winners to my list. It’s so much more than a book about being deaf, though. Sure, it delves into that. Piper, the only deaf member of a hearing family and a hearing school, feels out of place and ignored. She never pities herself for that, however. She gets frustrated, sometimes angry, but never self-pitying or martyrish. She feels that her parents think of her as the “flawed” child, and come to find out, she’s somewhat right.

But it’s also about music, and about people, and families, born or assembled. It's about business and standing behind the promises you make and functioning in an adult world. Piper trips and falls down over things that have nothing to do with her deafness, and then picks herself up again.

There was one thing that did not set right. In the beginning of the book, we’re told that Piper’s parents raided her college fund to pay for her baby sister’s cochlear implant (something Piper is too old for). The money was left specifically to Piper by her deaf grandparents, and she has it earmarked for a specific university that serves the deaf and hearing-impaired, someplace where she will finally stop feeling out of place. This money is never replaced, and no real apology is ever given. Sure, it’s symptomatic of the fractures in the family that ultimately get repaired, and yes, medical procedure for a baby, but I’m still not happy that it was dropped with a “well, you can get financial aid!”

That’s a nitpick I had to get off my chest. Overall, I'd recommend this to music-lovers, contemporary readers, and anybody who wants a great heroine.


Beth said...

I also liked this book a lot. Fun fact -- I leave near the grave they go visit!

I felt that the raid on her college funds was huge because it was her parents betraying her at all levels -- financial and personal. They were rejected her as deaf and flawed even as they sold out her dreams. So that was the huge deal she had to forgive to reach out to them. Yes, her dad FINALLY trying to learn sign was a step, but the family clearly had a lot further to go.

The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

I just heard ABOUT THIS BOOK YESTERDAY FROM A 13 YEAR OLD FRIEND WHO TOLD ME i HAD TO READ IT. hAVING READ YOUR revie, I think I must. )Sorry about the caps lock.)

Bibliovore said...

Beth - thank you!! I think you put your finger on why this bothered me so intensely. I thought it was because, hello, MONEY, but it wasn't. It was because the money was specifically for Piper to have a life where deafness was for once the norm and she was accepted just as she was. But her parents took that money and used it to "fix" Grace's deafness, reiterating to Piper, again, that her deafness was a flaw while simultaneously robbing her of that anticipated life.

Now that I think about it, I'm not sure the parents should have gotten off the hook quite so easily.

sprite said...

Interesting twist on the band book. I'll have to see if the library has a copy.

Jeanette W. Stickel said...

I work with students with various disabilities (or different abilities) so I’m always on the look out for books with a protagonist my students can relate to. Thanks for the review.