Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Review: Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Five Flavors of Dumb
by Antony John
November 10, 2010
Amazon Page
Grade: A

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.

This might not be the most coherent of reviews because I totally loved this book.  It’s the whole cliché – I laughed, I cried, and I was completely disappointed when it was over.

Piper was a fantastic heroine with a great character arc.  Sometimes you read a book, and even when it’s good, the character journey is pretty predictable, but I never felt that way with Piper.  She begins as a fantastically intelligent girl who struggles to express her personality both at school and with her family.  Many of her difficulties originate in her lack of confidence – not in herself so much but in her ability to find a voice in a world that highly values hearing and speech and dismisses most other forms of communication.  When she decides to become the manager of a high school band, she’s forced to confront society’s paternalist attitudes towards Deaf people and Deaf culture head on.  Piper moves from mainly a passive role in society to a person who knows what she wants and how to achieve it.  It’s something she’s always known – we learn very quickly that she’s an insanely good and aggressive chess player but the process of applying this to her own life is a complicated one.

She’s snarky, determined, crazy smart, and completely stupid about boys.  I absolutely fell in love with her the instant she appeared on the page. 

I also loved every member of her very present family.  Each member of the family is going through their own struggle.  Her father’s trying to adapt to the loss of his job and becoming the stay-at-home parent, her mother deals with suddenly being the sole income and the secondary caregiver, her little brother Finn (who I utterly adored and wanted as my own brother) is trying to adapt to going to high school as the “brother of the deaf girl.”  And the baby just received cochlear implants that will allow her to enter the hearing world.  Sometimes even when a family or parents appear in a YA novel, their lives seem to revolve around the central character’s, but it’s clear in The Five Flavors of Dumb that each of these people has their own life, their own inner struggles, and the story becomes not just Piper’s but the entire family’s especially as they all try to resolve the conflicts between the hearing members – now including the baby, Grace - and Piper’s Deafness.

The titular band is also comprised of strong and interesting personalities, and there’s really no need for external conflict because the interpersonal issues are set up so well.  Even so, there’s definitely two tiers of character development within the band – the girls - Tash and Kallie - and Ed become fully three-dimensional characters while Josh and Will lurk in the background even when Josh acts as antagonist to his own band. 

While there isn’t any overt violence or sexual themes in the book, the narration shies away from absolutely nothing.  Some of the themes and emotions are raw enough that it feels like the book is addressing much more controversial issues, and that just strengthens the overall text.  There’s so much in this book that I loved!  If I could think of a cool way to do it, I'd draw a comparison between this book and the movie Almost Famous because while the story is completely different, the ability of music to save and transform lives comes through in the similar ways.  Seriously, go read this book.  I can’t even stress that enough.


  1. Kelly @ The Bookscape ReportOctober 26, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    Great review! I've been undecided on this book, but after reading your review, I can't wait to check it out!

  2. Wow! Thanks so much for the glowing (and extraordinarily well-written) review, Emily. I really appreciate you taking the time to read and post your thoughts.

  3. Thank you and awesome! I hope you enjoy it, and I'd love to see your thoughts when you read it.

  4. Oh wow, thank you so much for commenting and writing such a wonderful book to begin with! I seriously loved it.

  5. I saw this book on the That Cover Girl blog, but this is the first time I stopped to read what it was about. Congratulations on the great review, Emily; you've made this sound fantastic! I like the premise of teen girl managing a rock band, anyway, and then for the book to deal with the issues it does, it just sounds like a wonderful read.


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! I read and adore each one.