Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
November 11, 2010; Dial
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. (courtesy of Goodreads)
Five Flavors of Dumb is one of the rare YA books that is of literary quality, but is also easy and fun to read. On the surface, the book is about a deaf girl taking a crap band from obscurity to something resembling success. But at its heart, this book is a character story. A tale of self-discovery. Of family. Of friends. And even a little romance.
Piper is the undeniable star of the story. She has the typical teenage insecurities, but magnified because her deafness makes her feel like an outsider. Unlike many quiet characters with low self-esteem, Piper is anything but a shriveling wallflower. When she pushes aside the wall she's built up, she is bitingly funny, capable, persuasive, manipulative, bossy - all things that create a fabulous band manager. The author does a fabulous job of creating a flawed character. Piper holds grudges, can be emotional, and jumps to conclusions. These characteristics are shown - not told - throughout the novel.
We are quickly introduced to Piper's family: her freshman brother Finn, her baby sister Grace, and her parents. At first, I thought her parents were going to be cardboard villainous adults. Her dad refuses to learn sign language to speak with Piper and her parents raided Piper's college fund to pay for her little sister's cochlear implant. They wanted to "fix" the baby's deafness - further implying that something is "wrong" with Piper. Thankfully, her parents developed into three dimensional characters as the book went on. We saw the strains on their relationship but also the potential for growth as her parents revealed themselves to be people who loved all three of their kids, even if they didn't show it in the best ways. Plus, Piper's relationship with her brother Finn was stellar. They hate each other, compete with each other, support each other, love each other. A realistic sibling relationship if there ever was one.
The five members of Dumb were also layered, likeable (with one exception) characters. The most remarkable characters were Kallie and Ed, in that they taught Piper the most. Kallie is more than the tune-deaf, idiot bimbo that Piper always assumed. Ed is a sweet, easy-going love-sick puppy. I adored him immediately and continuously yelled at Piper for being so blind. The plot of the book is shaped around the different events the band participates in, in one way or another. But unlike most books, the plot doesn't define that band's growth. Rather the characters do. Everything that happens to the band, good or bad, is shaped by the character attributes and flaws of each member. The more they tear each other apart, the worse the band gets. The closer they grow together, the better the band gets.
I can't recommend Five Flavors of Dumb enough. I don't know if it has or will win any awards, but it deserves to be showered with accolades.