Monday, December 20, 2010

Five Flavors of Dumb - Antony John

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
Piper is a senior and the best player on a two member chess team. The day after Dumb, a high school band plays an unauthorized concert and gets detention, she becomes their manager. Josh, the lead singer offered the job as a sort of challenge after Piper disses Dumb's ability to capitalize on a recent win. Piper is severally hearing impaired but this doesn't stop her from saying yes. She has one month to get the band a paying gig.

In a family of five, Piper is the only one who is deaf. The author doesn't dwell on Piper's deafness, nor does he ignore it, it simply is.

"The scene on the steps was oddly compelling, even aesthetically pleasing. The bright, late September sun glinted off the teen proof tempered windows. Beside me, Kallie Sims, supermodel wannabe, was a vision of flawless dark skin and meticulously flat ironed hair. Even Dumb's instruments looked shiny and cared for. And all the while I could feel the music pounding in my hands, my feet, my chest. For a moment, I understood how Dumb might have won the Battle of the Bands on pure energy alone."

Dumb started out with three members, Josh Cooke, the vocalist, his twin brother Will on bass and Tash Hartley on lead guitar. Ed Chen, Piper's best friend (and the other chess member) is Dumb's new drummer, after blowing everyone away with his skills. The final member is Kallie Sims, another guitarist. Kallie isn't a great musician but she loves and needs music. Josh tricked Piper into help voting Kallie into the band. Now he expects something in return from Kallie

Piper must figure out a way to get these five different people to play as one. She has personality and skill level clashes to contend with. At home Piper must come to terms with her parents using her college fund to play for her baby sister's cochlear implant surgery. Piper's doesn't have a great relationship with her father, who has never taken the time to learn sign language.

Someone realizes Piper isn't familiar with Seattle's musical influence. This anonymous person has Piper visit the homes of Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix. The outings become bonding moments for some members of Dumb.

" Ten minutes later, we joined the rush hour traffic heading east on I-90 across Lake Washington, fighting a stiff breeze that whipped waves against the bridge. I peered in the rearview mirror occasionally, but no one on the backseat was talking. Whatever thoughts we were lost in we were lost in together"

This is one of those books where everything comes together so well and all I wanted to do was keep reading. I was pleasantly surprised by how emotionally charged it was, getting beyond the superficial. The author excels here, by not forcing it, he simply lets everything and everyone develop naturally. Piper might be the main character but everyone in Dumb has their moment.

I loved watching female band members, Tash and Kallie come into their own. There's a great scene when Piper, Tash and Kallie come together and simply leave the boys and the chaos behind. Five Flavors of Dumb has many layers and I loved them all.

Kallie's need and pure understanding of rock touched me so much, I had no choice but to break out my Nirvana unplugged CD while reading.


Antony John said...

Thanks for the lovely and very thoughtful review, Doret. And I'm delighted you pulled out the old Nirvana unplugged CD. "Where did you sleep last night" is without doubt one of the most amazing musical performances in history. (IMHO, of course!)

Doret said...

Hi Antony

That Nirvana unplugged was one of the best. One of my other favorites was LL Cool J's.

But that whole MTV performance was just great. I could've went with any of songs, but I thought Dumb being the name of the band was very fitting.

Five Flavors of Dumb was stay up way too late good. Thanks so much for stopping by.