Title: Five Flavors of DumbPublisher: Dial Books
Release Date: November 11th, 2010
Pages: 338 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Birthday gift.
Review:(First off, I apologize for the delay. I finished this book on Saturday but between being sick on vacation again and Pokemon White, I've been a little preoccupied.)
After mouthing off to her high school's "it" band Dumb, Piper is stuck being their manager and has one month to get them a paying gig. She doesn't want to do it, but her parents raided her college fund to pay for an operation for her sister and Piper needs money. However, it's going to take a lot of work to turn Dumb into a commercial band. Between recruiting new members (one of whom lacks any talent), keeping the five flavors of Dumb from killing each other, pulling some cunning tricks to get Dumb places, fighting and making up with her family, and learning what music's all about, Piper has a lot on her plate. She can handle it. Well, she can if people will stop using her deafness as an excuse why she can't handle it.
I have heard nothing but praise for this book and was dying to get my paws on it and read it. That praise? Yeah, it is all deserved. This book is so good that it gave me the strong urge to cut my hair and dye it Atomic Pink.
It's not everyday you see characterization this strong in a young adult novel anymore. Get this: For once, the characters are deeper than puddles! Piper, as our heroine, is not perfect. She isn't always nice, she tricks people many times, and she provokes people more than once. She's also cunning, good at finding loopholes, and comes to see the band as more than a way to make money. Instead of her deafness characterizing her and being a disability, it's just another part of her. In fact, the abilities of lip-reading and signing that she gained because of her "disability" turn out to be valuable assets that help Dumb get ahead. She is deaf, but deaf is not her.
But the real star of this novel? That would be Kallie Sims, the "perfect girl" deconstructed. Initially, Piper dislikes her for being so perfect and as the novel goes on, the reader discovers that Kallie isn't perfect; she's a girl just like Piper. Kallie has a not-so-ideal home life, her fashionable clothes (that are bought with her mother's employee discount) get made fun of by her "friends" for being last season, and while she loves music with all her heart and connects with it in a way few people do, she can't play an instrument to save her life. This perfect girl is as imperfect as everyone else and even when she takes center stage late in the novel, she is still just a girl. I love Kallie. I'd love to see a sequel one day through her point of view.
Other characters, like angry green-haired guitarist Tash and Piper's music-loving brother/translator Finn, get their touches of depth too. Even Piper's parents get some depth! How often are the parents more than just background characters like this? The scenes where Piper fought with her dad or exhibited jealousy towards her baby sister Grace genuinely tugged at my heart strings. In fact, this had to be one of the most "real" novels I've ever read. Everything about it, from Piper's discovery of what music is about and who she is to the fight she has with her family to the fight the band has among themselves, felt so real to me.
Five Flavors of Dumb also gave me the worst case of novel whiplash I've ever had. On one page, I would be laughing so hard (my favorite quote came off page two and to preserve the magic, I will not speak of it) that I was given strange looks by other people if I was reading in public; in a few more pages, I would be ready to bawl like a baby because of any particular scene I found heart-wrenching. My poor Mom thought I was having mood swings! And keep in mind, of course, that I'm not an emotional reader. If I weren't so lazy, I would make a "made me cry" and "made me laugh" tag so people could see just how rare it gets.
Five Flavors of Dumb is now one of my favorite books of all time and I don't slap that label on books lightly. Only four other books have that title and this one right here is number five. I recommend this book to absolutely anyone. As long as you don't hate music (especially rock music), I think you'll enjoy Five Flavors of Dumb.