Sunday, February 20, 2011

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Release date: 1 November 2010 (United States)
Rating: 10/10

Eighteen-year-old Piper has got herself into a mess. Because of her big mouth, she has one month to get a paying gig for her high school's hottest new rock band, Dumb. In Piper's mind, the band couldn't have a more perfect name. Just look at the members: one egomaniacal pretty boy, one silent rocker, one talent-less piece of eye-candy, one angry girl, and one nerd-boy drummer - five discordant personalities who, when put together, seem ready to self-destruct at any moment. Getting them an actual gig seems impossible. Add to that the fact that Piper doesn't know if their music is good or not, because, well, she's deaf.

But Piper is determined to get the band a gig to show her classmates that being deaf doesn't mean she's invisible. And as she gets to know the five flavors of Dumb, some hidden talents, secret crushes, and crazy rock music emerge. She doesn't need to hear the music to sell it, but Piper wants the chance to feel the music too.

This is easily one of the best young adult books I have read in my entire life. I’ve been struggling to put together a review that conveyed this and I still don’t feel like I can do it well enough. But I have to write something, because this book is wonderful. For someone that music is essentially the most important thing to and as someone that not only has a hearing loss, but is studying Audiology, this story naturally connected with me on many levels. But besides that, I think it’s a fantastic read for anyone as it gives an insight into the world of the hearing impaired and also how music can change a life.

I just knew that when he met a girl for the first time, he didn’t have to worry about how his voice sounded or whether she was freaked out by the way he stared at her lips the whole time.

My favourite character was protagonist Piper’s younger brother, Finn, for his experiences as the younger brother (and older brother to baby Grace) of a hearing impaired person. When he has a conversation with Piper about how he learned American Sign Language for her, to talk to his sister, it honestly brought tears to my eyes. The isolation Piper feels breaks my heart and her growth throughout the book is inspirational. All of the characters of Dumb (the band) are fantastic and different in their own way and the development of most of them is incredible to see.

I felt exhausted, and it wasn’t just the strain of lip-reading in a room that echoed like a cathedral.

A lot of people that have experience with being hearing impaired, knowing someone that is hearing impaired and/or has hearing aids, or works in the Deaf or hearing impaired community (as an audiologist, ENT, teacher for the Deaf, etc) probably read this and judge it compared to their own knowledge; I don’t think this is the important part. The crucial part of the story that Antony John got “right”, to me, is the small things. The frustration when someone turns away or walks off speaking when they know you have a hearing loss and then you can’t hear them anymore; the exhaustion that comes along with that extra effort it takes just to hear and to work out what is going on in a conversation; those little things that people that have had perfect hearing their entire lives generally take for granted because they have no reason not to. Whether Antony John got the specifics of what type of hearing aid a girl with a moderate-to-severe sensorineural hearing loss could have is irrelevant. He did a damn good job of conveying the experiences of a young hearing impaired person at high school and I know because I was one.

The painful truth was that each and every person who had sat on that seat before me had experienced music in a purer, more visceral way than I could even begin to imagine.

Although not significantly relevant to the storyline (so not a spoiler), I loved the part where Piper visits the house that Kurt Cobain died in and the park next door. Until that day, she didn’t even know Kurt had committed suicide, only that he was dead, and didn’t know why Nirvana were so famous. Piper sees all the messages in the park from Nirvana fans to Kurt and is saddened that she doesn’t understand how music could affect someone in such a significant way. This part particularly resonated with me. I love the fact that hearing aids these days have 'music' programs that are better suited to listening to music. There’s still a long way to go with them, but the idea of bringing music into a hearing impaired person’s life amazes me. I spent the first fifteen years of my life with a more significant hearing loss than I have now, but I still loved music (largely thanks to my mother’s obsession with it and later my brother’s). I just needed it loud, otherwise it sounded muffled, and even then I still got the lyrics all wrong and couldn't hear the instruments distinctly. The idea of a person’s hearing being too bad that music sounded like nothing worth listening is heartbreaking to me. I know there are plenty of people that music doesn’t matter to anyway, but at least they have the option to fall in love with it or not. I distinctly remember the first time I heard my favourite band with bilateral much-closer-to-normal hearing, even though it was eight years ago. It was indescribable.

She turned away. I couldn’t lip read anymore, and her words became indistinct – a really obnoxious thing to do to someone who’s hard of hearing.

I couldn’t read this book or write a review for it as anyone but someone that has a hearing loss. I know what it’s like to have the world sound muffled; the first fifteen years of my life I didn’t even know any different. But I still maintain that this book is incredible without my personal experiences and everyone should read it whom has an interest in music, life with a disability, or just a great young adult fiction story.

Please don’t put your life in the hands of a rock ‘n’ roll band.


  1. Awesome review Lindy. I'm so glad you loved it as much as me (maybe more).

  2. Haha, I hadn't even edited it properly yet :) Mine ended up even longer than yours! eep. xoxo

  3. Your review is fantastic because it comes from a perspective that most people do not have.
    Much love xx

  4. Gosh ~ between you and Jess I really want to get my hands on this one ~ you write a really compelling review!

    xo Nomes

  5. You should definitely read it and write a review - I'd love to know what you think, Nomes! xo

  6. Thanks so much for posting this awesome review, Elle. I'm practically blushing at some of the lines in it, and it's wonderful to know you enjoyed DUMB so much. Plus, seeing "favourite" written with a "u" in it made me all nostalgic. Cheers!

  7. Thanks for your comment, Antony :) And your awesome book! I almost accidentally wrote the title spelt "Flavours", haha.

  8. This is a great review.. It's definitely great to read a review from someone who knows what Piper has gone through. I love Piper and I think she is a strong character and an awesome girl - hearing impaired or not! I'm glad you love the book :)

  9. Thanks for the comment, Soon Hana :) Piper is definitely an awesome character. I love your blog! Your layout and header look really pretty, too.

  10. Wow I love this. I'm adding this to my tbr list now. It's always great to read a book where the experiences the protagonist goes through are relatable in a personal level. That won't be the case for me (only the tiiiiiniest bit because I have a wee bit of hearing loss), but I know I would like this book too. Glad you enjoyed it :)

  11. You'll have to review it once you've read it, I'd love to see what you think :) Thanks for the comment! Your blog is awesome, I love the huge variety of things you do with it.