Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John was the YA winner for this year’s Scheider Award so I picked up a copy the last time I was at the bookstore.  It had pinged my radar a few times but the award pushed it to the top of my pile.  Thank goodness for the Schneider, because this a book that begs to be read!  So glad it won and more teens will get to read it!

Piper is on the fringe of high school society.  She prefers to be invisible, especially since her best friend moved away.  When Dumb, the latest band to emerge from her Seattle high school,  wins a Seattle music contest, she somehow ends up as their manager.  This wouldn’t be a big deal, except that Piper is deaf.  But while Piper’s deafness is a vital part of the story, this isn’t a book about being deaf.  It’s a book about music, about grunge, about being yourself.

If Dumb expects to get any farther than the high school auditorium, they need Piper’s help.  They are a mess- barely playing in time, constantly fighting, and not even sure of their sound. Piper needs money (her parents raided her college fund to pay for her baby sister’s cochlear implant) so she negotiates a contract- she gets Dumb a paying gig within a month and they share profits.  She only needs 3 weeks to score their first gig, but it doesn’t exactly work out as planned. So what if they are a hard rock band and she books them at the local college soft rock station?

I love Piper.  She is mature but real.  Teens will identify with her struggles to be noticed at to fade into the crowd (all at once, if possible). Her issues with her family are easy to understand and typical of many teens. While the issues might vary from teen to teen, the underlying feelings are the same.  And the music. Oh, the music. The nods to Nirvana, Hendrix, and classic rock are perfection. Piper doesn’t know a lot of rock and the journey she takes is one that the reader will be glad to take with her.

This is a book that will appeal to guys and girls alike.  I see no reason not to share it with mature 8th graders and high schoolers.  It’s a book about someone with a disability that doesn’t preach, doesn’t talk down to readers.  Instead, it’s a book that happens to star a character that is deaf.  It affects the plot but doesn’t drive it entirely. For that reason, lovers of realistic and contemporary fiction will adore this book. At the same time, those readers who love a book about “issues” will flock to it.

I highly recommend Five Flavors of Dumb for teen readers. It’s got a fresh voice, a kick-butt heroine, and humor galore. It’s pretty close to perfect!

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