The Challenge: Piper has one month to get the rock band Dumb a paying gig.
The Deal: If she does it, Piper will become the band's manager and get her share of the profits.
The Catch: How can Piper possibly manage one egomaniacal pretty boy, one talentless piece of eye candy, one crush, one silent rocker, and one angry girl? And how can she do it when she's deaf?
Piper can't hear Dumb's music, but with growing self-confidence, a budding romance, and a new understanding of the decision her family made to buy a cochlear implant for her deaf baby sister, she discovers her own inner rock star and what it truly means to be a flavor of Dumb.
If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you’ll probably know that I love books that take concepts that aren’t frequently dealt with in fiction and run with them. So, you might assume that’s why I picked up Five Flavors of Dumb. It’s not. Two of my close family members are deaf, and I was really curious to see how Antony John would deal with the subject, especially in relation to a teenage girl.
Although Piper’s deafness is a huge part of the plot, the book isn’t about Piper’s deafness—that’s just an added challenge thrown in her way. Too often, when authors choose to write about a character that’s not mainstream, their ‘difference’—whether that’s their race, sexual orientation, or in this case, a disability—is pretty much all that the book is about. Antony John tackles the issue of disability without turning this into an ‘issue’ book, and I still would have loved it if Piper hadn’t been deaf.
Each character has a unique role in the book, and the main characters are extremely well developed. Piper is both a likeable and flawed heroine; there were times when I wanted to hug her and times when I wanted to scream at her, but mostly, I loved that she acted realistically. I also enjoyed the page time devoted to Piper’s rebellious younger brother, Finn, and her genius best friend, Ed—they were two characters who had a little more depth to them and who I enjoyed figuring out.
Piper’s relationship with her parents was also intensely satisfying: gone are the never-present or underdeveloped parents we see in many a YA novel. Instead we have a split between Piper’s mom, with whom she has a good relationship, and her dad, who has never really adjusted to having a deaf daughter or given her the support she needs. Piper clashes frequently with her parents over her baby sister, Grace, while still trying to cultivate a good relationship with the only other member of her family who started out as deaf. There’s a lot of growth in these relationships, and it happens in a realistic manner.
The tension between members of Dumb was palpable, and resulted not only from the incredible clashes in their personalities but also occasionally from Piper’s managerial efforts. One thing I have to say about Piper is that she had serious guts, and wasn’t afraid to do anything she needed to do to get her college money. She earned my respect, and I found myself completely swept up in the misadventures of the band and the occasionally cringe-worthy things that they did. Overall, Five Flavors of Dumb is a fantastic, satisfying read—don’t wait as long as I did to pick it up! Hit the bookstore now.
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