Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Five Flavors of Dumb

I wasn't quite sure going in if I would like "Five Flavors of Dumb," by Antony John, because it had some elements I wasn't sure whether I would like. But the book really did end up surprising me in the best way possible.

First, the summary:
Eighteen-year-old Piper has gotten herself into a mess. Because of her big mouth, she has one month to get a paying gig for her high school’s hottest new rock band, called Dumb. In Piper’s mind, the band couldn’t have a more perfect name. Just look at the members: one egomaniacal pretty boy, one silent rocker, one talentless piece of eye candy, one angry girl, and one nerd-boy drummer--five discordant personalities who, when put together, seem ready to self-destruct at any moment. Getting them an actual gig seems impossible. Add to that the fact that Piper doesn’t know if their music is good or not, because, well, she’s deaf.

But Piper is determined to get the band a gig to show her classmates that being deaf doesn’t mean she’s invisible. And as she gets to know the five flavors of Dumb, some hidden talents, secret crushes, and crazy rock music emerge. She doesn’t need to hear the music to sell it, but Piper wants the chance to feel the music too. Does she have what it takes to manage Dumb and discover her own inner rock star?
So there were three main things I was worried about going in (and they are totally the result of my own prejudices and preferences). The first was Piper's deafness. I mean, I think it's awesome that the author created a completely different challenge than most YA characters have to deal with, but I wasn't sure how Piper's deafness would affect the story--I didn't want it to be the story. But I think John manages to create the perfect balance: since Piper's deaf, it obviously affects the way she interacts with people, and it creates tension within her family, but John makes Piper about so much more than her deafness. She's sarcastic and creative and smart and strong and compassionate. She doesn't view her deafness as a disability and doesn't let it affect her going after what she wants. Piper's not awesome despite her deafness, she's plain straight-up awesome.

The second thing I was worried about before I got into the book was the band aspect. The main story line is the development of the band Dumb, and I didn't know if I would like it because band dynamics haven't ever really interested me. But I definitely became emotionally invested in the individuals in Dumb--especially Kallie, the beautiful "weak-link" guitarist. Just like the characters, I misjudged Kallie as just a pretty face in the beginning, but as she became more real and both her insecurities and strengths were slowly revealed, I came to admire her so much. By the end of the book, she was definitely my favorite character besides Piper. Most of the characters in this book surprised me in similar ways: people I thought I had down showed me sides I didn't initially guess they had: Josh, Finn, Piper's dad, Ed, Tash . . . and the list could go on.

The last hang up I had before I read the book was that it was a male author writing a female main character--and in the first person to boot. I've just never really found a book where a male author wrote what I thought was a completely believable female lead. But Antony John proved me wrong with this book. If I hadn't known it was a male author before I read it, I wouldn't have guessed. I feel like male authors don't always spend time dealing with the characters' emotions and insecurities, but John did, and I was just really, really impressed with his ability to write girl freak outs and emotional blow ups accurately.

For some reason, it was a book I could put down without any qualms, and as a result it took me longer to finish than usual, but I really do recommend it. Any book that could take my prejudices and preferences and turn them on their heads was definitely worth my time.


  1. I will probably borrow this when I get back, I wanted to go to rent a book from the library but the only english ones they have are boring old ones

  2. Thanks for the lovely (and thoughtful) review, Karen. I'm so pleased you enjoyed DUMB, and I'm grateful to you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Cheers!


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