Review - Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Smooth Criminal by 2CELLOS.

My reviews are a bit different than most. As an undercover superhero (ordinary girl extraordinaire), my purpose is to try and uncover hidden gems lost from the familiar radar. Because of this, I have set up some guidelines for myself (just like the pirate code). :)

I will focus on YA and Children's literature (with very rare exceptions).
I will not review any book that is one of the top 25,000 bestselling books (based on Amazon ranks).
I will try and aim for books 100,000 or larger.
I will review recent books or books of great merit (preferably both).

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
Published: November 11, 2010
Publisher: Dial
Pages: 352
Current Amazon Rank: #101,327

Author's Website: here
Want it? Find it here.

The First Line:

For the record, I wasn't around the day they decided to become Dumb.

My Take:

I love this book. There are so many reasons why I love this book that it is hard to know where to begin. How about because it features a deaf main character, which I've never heard of before (and in fact I've only read one other novel that had a deaf character in it at all. And it wasn't very good. Believe me), plus, though not pictured on the cover (they pretty much captured Piper by the way) there are two POC - "person(s) of color", or different ethnicities - portrayed in the book, one who is the love interest? Or the fact that Antony John really did his research, not only in rock history and culture, but also on Deaf culture? He nailed it, in fact.

You see, I took sign language for three years in high school. My teacher, who had a deaf sister, made sure we integrated Deaf culture (yes, there is such a thing) into our studies. And let me tell you, Mr. John did his homework.

Not only did he brush up on places like Gallaudet University, he also understood the conflicts that often exists on so many levels in this community. For example, to learn sign language or no signing? Lip reading only or in conjunction with sign? Cochlear implant (a device to help some deaf regain partial hearing) or no? Does it destroy your identity or fix you? DOES something need to be fixed? Not only did he understand it, he integrated it into the story and I loved that. It made the story that much richer. I am really trying not to go overboard on all there is, but I am positively bursting because again, I have never seen a book like this, and not only that, one that handles the topic so well and yet so naturally. It never felt like a lesson on Deaf culture, it felt like a story, with one heck of a protagonist.

Here is a little blip from the description glimpsing into some of the characters:

How can Piper possibly manage one egomaniacal pretty boy, one talentless piece of eye candy, one crush, one silent rocker, and one angry girl?

(Can I also just say that it is awesome he made Piper's family an active part of her life? No parents vanishing mysteriously here. Yay for dodging that trope bullet). And I loved her brother, Finn. In fact, I loved almost every character in this book.

But beyond hitting all of these points so well (in my opinion), the story rocks. I mean, a deaf girl who agrees to find a paying gig for a high school rock band she can't even tell if they are any good? It sounded amazing. It was amazing. And Piper's voice rings out loud and clear from the very first page.

Granted, I didn't get all of the rock history references, but he does an admirable job of navigating the novices like me through. He made me want to look up more about Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain after I was done. And also worthy of nit-picky note, Piper also does something to alter her appearance partway through the book and it felt sudden to me, but I grew to accept it by the end.

This story is tight and clean and moves at a great clip (beware, there is some language for my gentle readers). This is a fantastic story I would recommend highly to almost anyone. It is different than anything else you've read.

The Final Word:

A top notch read that is so unique and vastly refreshing than anything else I've come across. In fact, I am hard pressed to find another book to compare it to. Fun, engaging and so wildly different. I would love to see more stories like this.


Antony John said...

Thanks so much for the awesome review, Heather - I really appreciate it. Yes, I did a lot of research, and I must say I'll glad it all works for you. I was so worried about misrepresenting the experience of deafness, and I always like to hear from readers who have a personal connection with deafness or Deaf culture.

Good luck finding a home for that novel!

Heather Zundel said...

Oh my. Thank you so much! It is an honor to see you here. It was a pleasure to read in so many ways.

And thank you!

Charlotte said...

Ah gee, I've been meaning to read this one for ages! I must actually do so...