Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John. (Grades 9+) Dial, November 2010. 338 pages. Reviewed from purchased copy.
Piper feels invisible. Her best friend moved away. Her dad refused to learn to sign when she lost her hearing at the age of six, even though it's how she prefers to communicate. And, worst of all, she finds out that her parents "borrowed" money from her college fund to pay for her baby sister's cochlear implants - surgical devices that will give hearing to Grace. Piper feels like no one listens to what she has to say and now that her dream of going to Gallaudet University, a deaf college in DC, is on precarious ground, maybe no one ever will.
Maybe that's why she opens her big mouth after the newest winners of Seattle's Teen Battle of the Bands serenade everyone on the steps of the school one morning. She doesn't have to hear to know that they're completely not together, "all style, no substance". And somehow she ends up accepting a job as their manager. It's everything she wanted - her ticket to fame and fortune - but she'll have to get them a paying gig before the first month is over or she's fired. As Piper gets to know the five flavors of Dumb, she'll learn more about rock and roll and about herself than she ever would have guessed.
This is a story with a lot of heart and the tone's a really nice mix of humorous and serious. I was drawn to Piper right away - she's a sympathetic character, strong and sassy and a little self-deprecating. The book deals with her struggles with the band - five very different teens, each with strengths and weaknesses - as she's dealing with other stuff, too. Her sister getting a cochlear implant is a big deal for her, and she has to sort out some complicated emotions that go along with it.
When I first found out that the book was about a girl with hearing impairment, I had concerns about the title. It's briefly addressed in a conversation between Piper and her best friend (who is also deaf). And, really, when you read about the band, you can believe that they would choose the name Dumb for their band. :)
I also loved all the secondary characters. They're nicely fleshed out and add to the story without overwhelming it. There's a lot going on in the novel - rock shows and interviews and best friend issues and new romance and rejection and family stuff - but it doesn't feel like too much. And, let's face it, many of our teens are actually dealing with a million different things, so in that way it's definitely realistic.
Tone-wise and topic-wise, the book reminded me of Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway, so I'd definitely recommend Five Flavors of Dumb to teens who enjoyed it. With a strong female narrator and a tone that's light and serious at turns, I'd also recommend this to fans of Sarah Dessen and maybe John Green. I love all of those books and authors just mentioned, so I'm sure you've deduced that I loved Five Flavors of Dumb, too. :)
A note about the cover: I love it. I love the colors and I know you can't tell this from looking at this post, but I love the texture of it as well. It's all matte except for the title, which is glossy. And yeah, I pretty much want a giant blown-up poster of it like a rock band poster. That Cover Girl did a whole series of posts about this cover, actually. Check out her interview with Kristin Smith, the cover designer.
Five Flavors of Dumb will be on shelves November 11!
TUNE IN TOMORROW for an interview with the fabulous Antony John and your chance to WIN a signed ARC of Five Flavors of Dumb!