Thursday, August 11, 2011

Five Flavors of Dumb

A deaf girl takes on the management of her school's premier rock band, which just won Seattle's Battle of the Teen Bands.  From the moment I heard the premise of Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John I wanted to read it.   And I wanted to love it.  The former has been accomplished, but not the latter.  The book, while interesting in some respects, had some flaws that  I just couldn't get past to enjoy it completely.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
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 almost did not finish reading this all of the way through.  The prose did not engage me at all.  There were many times within the first 100 pages when I was bored.  Bored with the characters, who I found to be very  two dimensional.  Bored with the predictability of the plot.  Bored with how many times the author used the band's name as a double entendre (actually that was old by the end of chapter three).  I saw how the author was trying to be clever, but it seemed like he was trying a little too hard.

The plot of this book requires an epic suspension of belief.  Now all novels require this on some level, after all that is what fiction is.  However, I had a hard time buying into this from the first chapter, and not because a deaf girl was going to successfully manage a rock band.  No, it was because this book takes place in Seattle, WA.  Seattle is by no definition a small city, and it has earned its place in the history of rock.  It is the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam. Yet we are supposed to believe from the first chapter that Dumb is the best teen band this large, diverse, musical city has to offer.  They won Seattle's Battle of the Teen Bands after all.  But...They only have three members.  They have no drummer.  The guitarists only know three chords. 

However, the setting of the book is its greatest strength.  In her journey as the band's  manager, Piper is directed by an anonymous person to the home where Kurt Cobain committed suicide and to the childhood home of Jimi Hendrix. She is supposed to learn something about the power of music from this and how the making of it is not all about money.  This was by far my favorite part of the book.  It was what kept me engaged and reading to the end.

The end, by the way, is the tidiest little package you could ever hope to receive.  It is a perfect Hollywood ending.  Girl gets to be a hero.  All three girls do actually.  Girl gets the boy she wants.  Bad guy gets what is coming to him.  All relationships are restored.  The band is awesome and impresses even the professionals they are suddenly opening for.  At The Showbox.  I kid you not. 

If the author had made Dumb just a little more capable I would have been with him all the way.  I just couldn't buy into this story on any level the way it was. 

Not everyone agrees with me though.  In fact, I'm in a small minority.  Lots of people like this book.  I'm linking to some of their reviews to add a little balance to this review:
Becky's Book Reviews
The Book Smugglers
Steph Su Reads

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