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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

YA Novel about deafness, grace, school, families, and rock and roll

John, Antony (2010) Five Flavors of Dumb  New York:  Penguin.



Opening Lines:  "For the record, I wasn't around the day they decided to become Dumb.  If I'd been their manager back then I'd have pointed out that the name, while accurate, was not exactly smart.  It just encouraged people to question the band's intelligence. maybe even their sanity.  And the way i saw it, Dumb didn't have much of either."

Piper is eighteen years old, a senior in high school, and deaf.  When her big mouth lands her a job managing the garage band "Dumb" and worse, after promising to find then a paying gig, Piper realizes she has gotten herself into a difficult place.   Soon she is dealing with a rivalry between the bands angry female punk bassist and the airhead female guitarist who one of the male group member brought on board; trying to prepare them for a recording session with a washed-up former rock musician; and trying to convince the male members of the group to accept a nerdy chess-team refugee who also plays the drums.  Piper is also dealing with her parents, who intend to spend her college money for an operation that will allow her newborn deaf sister to be able to hear (and thus deprive Piper of a sister who might be able to understand her.  Throw in her brother who seems bent on self-destruction, a mysterious mentor who keeps sending the band to historical parts of the city to learn rock and roll history, and a couple of romantic sub-plots and you have a funny, remarkably engaging novel that high school students will really enjoy.

Early on in the book, my one complaint was that Piper's Dad is a pretty colossal jerk.  He has never learned sign language, he doesn't seem to know who Piper is or what is important to her. By the end of the book, after a fair amount of grace, he turns out to be a better guy than anyone knew.  And I am always a fan of any book where the nerd gets the girl (or in this case, the girl gets the nerd)..

The reading level of the book is probably suitable for middle school kids and up, but the content seems more ideal for high school.  This is a good story and well worth checking out.

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