FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB by Anthony John (Dial 2010) is the winner of the Schneider Family Award for Teens for 2011. So, when I found it on the shelf during weeding, I set it aside to read. How could I have missed this one in all of my frenetic reading? Simply, too many books and not sufficient time to read them all. Thank heavens for awards and lists and the like to make sure a jewel like this one does not escape unnoticed.
Piper has signed on as manager for a high school band named Dumb. There are a few possible problems here: she has never been a manager for a band before; she prefers to fly below the radar of high school; and then there is the fact that she is deaf. Add in the problems with the band itself and what evolves is a wonderfully funny and intense story of family, friends, music, deafness, and so much more. Piper has conflicts at home with her parents who have spent some of her college fund to purchase cochlear implants for her baby sister and a father who has failed to learn much sign language even though Piper prefers that for communication from time to time. Somehow Piper manages to find her way: negotiating a gig for the band as she negotiates her relationship with her parents and her young brother.
Rather than using Piper's deafness for cheap shots and gags, John weaves the issues of hearing versus deafness into the story effortlessly. Piper is not a deaf character but a character who happens to be deaf. And that is true for most of the characters who play an essential role in this remarkable novel. Thank you Schneider Family Committee for making sure that this book did not become lost in all of the hundreds and hundreds of other books. <56>