Author: Antony John
Publication Date: 11/11/10
Blurb (GR): 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.
I’ve started a list of books set in Seattle and Western Washington. For obvious reasons, I like reading about people I could hypothetically pass on the street. (if they somehow managed to jump out of books…hey, I’ve readThe Eyre Affair and Inkheart so I’m not ruling it out) I think about Sam and his friends playing potato hockey every time I go over to University Village. I think about Georgina Kincaid prowling the streets when it is eerily quiet outside at night, I think of Jade and Sebastian and Ruby Lockhart when I pass the houseboats on Lake Union. Shall I continue? I think of Bella et al. when I am on the Olympic peninsula, of Nora Roberts’ dog-training Fiona Bristow when I see dogs on the ferries, and when I went over the Cascades a few weekends ago, the cast of North of Beautiful was in my thoughts. I love the experience of reading a book and recognizing a lot of the landmarks, street names, and even just localisms that are peppered in the writing. So I was excited to see that this book is set in Seattle even though it was surprisingly penned by a Brit. It definitely added a few more literary memory places to my purely-hypothetical- in-reality-though-catalogued-in-my-brain map. (please post in the comments any Seattle/WA books you can think of!)
Five Flavors of Dumb intrigued me when I first read about it because it features a deaf protagonist and a musical plot-- I was curious to see what the storyline would include. I’m trying to gather my thoughts so I don’t sound like a complete idiot here. I think what was missing for me was the actual feeling of deafness. I know, I can’t actually experience deafness (at this moment) as a hearing person but I wanted to connect with Piper on her level as much as I could and I felt like I was receiving mixed messages. I could, however, feel Piper’s frustration and I loved that aspect of John’s writing. Her anger with her parents over their decision to give her sister a cochlear implant was palpable. That entire subplot was/is fascinating to me since I watched a documentary (Sound and Fury) about how the deaf community varies in its opinions on cochlear implants and the importance of deaf culture. The family dynamics were just so interesting in this book because each family member had a different relationship with Piper—I mean, that is always the case but John definitely put thought into the different reactions people could and do have to any particular situation. The perfect example presents itself in the relationship between Piper and her father, who never learned any ASL and basically communicates on a far lesser level with Piper because of it.
The supporting cast was just not as three-dimensional as I would’ve liked. They were almost caricatures of themselves. After reading works where the side characters each have a distinctive personality and voice, (Recent reads Raw Blue and Finnikin of the Rock are two that spring to mind) It disappoints me to say that about this book because I wanted to love it. There was one character other than Piper that truly came to life for me and that was Ed, the nerdy drummer in Dumb. (their band) As a former chess geek, I found Piper and Ed’s chess battles really adorable.
I absolutely recommend this book to most YA fans. Piper’s voice is unique in the genre and I appreciated what she had to say.