Synopsis (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.
Review: I first heard about Five Flavors of Dumb over at Capillya's blog, thatcovergirl. This was one of those books that I picked up purely for the cover. It sounded interesting and the cover was pretty badass so I thought I'd give it a try. However, unlike Her and Me and You, this one delivered with the story as well as the cover.
I skimmed the synopsis so quickly when I was looking into this book that I didn't even realize Piper was deaf until I picked it up and started reading. You quickly realize Piper's deafness isn't a disability or hinderance, but it's a part of her. John wove her deafness into Piper's character, without falling back on any kind of cheesiness or cliches. You never forget that Piper is deaf, but it's not who she is, just another aspect of her personality.
Piper is one of those characters that you just kind of wish were real so you could hang out and become BFFs. There's something inspiring about watching her evolve from a scared, pseudo-wallflower to the leader of a rock band. As much as I don't want to admit it, I was surprised when I realized that this book was written my a guy. I know, I know, a good writer can write any gender, so I should know better. John created a fantastic, complex, strong female character that rivals, in my mind, Katniss, Buffy, and Jessica Darling. There were moments when I wanted to shake her (mostly when it came to her utter blindness to the guy who was in love with her), but I couldn't help but love her. There's a great moment with the band's "mentor," Baz, impersonating her father that had me laughing out loud and solidified Piper's position as favorite female character of the year.
I was impressed how well the other characters were complete, well-rounded characters. Well, except for Will and Josh, I would have liked to see a little more of who they were outside of the band. Josh was a bit one-note. But Piper's parents were particularly well done. They weren't necessarily perfect, but they weren't terrible parents either. You could see that they were doing the best they could, and sometimes they made mistakes. While I seriously hated her father though most of the book, his character had a nice progression. The cynic in my wonders if he would have such a profound turnaround, but my heart is a black shriveled up husk so I'm going to go with it. (Kidding...it's only mildly withered)
There's also real reverence for music throughout the book. Though Piper can't totally hear their music, she finds inspiration from Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix. She's inspired by who they were, how they came to be musicians, and how they affected millions of people as much as any of us can be inspired by the music they made. In these moments of music history, Dumb became much more than a book about a band trying to make it. It was about the importance of music as, not just an aspect pop culture, but an aspect of history.
Also, I can't end my review without giving some love to Ed Chen. If I ever complain that fictional nice guys are boring, remind me of Ed Chen. Adorable, adorable Ed Chen (See also: Piper's brother, Finn). Score one for the nice guys, Ed Chen. (I think I just like saying "Ed Chen")