FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB by Antony John (Review)

Author: Antony John
Release Date: Out now (Nov. 11, 2010)
Publisher: Speak/Penguin
Received: Purchased after seeing Ashley from Basically Amazing's fantastic review!


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.

With a title like FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB, Antony John captures a reader's attention from the very beginning.  This week on two separate occasions, I was reading this at work and had two people want to know more based on the title alone.  It's attention-grabbing, which is perfect for a novel about a band trying to propel itself into the music world.  It's also a deeper title than you might expect on first glance.  "Five Flavors" is a term with many meanings.  I first realized this when I came across this passage:

"I watched Josh strutting, Ed practicing, Kallie hiding, Will spacing, and Tash gazing at Will, and realized that Baz was right.  This wasn't a group at all.  There was no togetherness, no blending--just five separate flavors of an indigestible dish called dumb." (pg. 100, US paperback edition)

In addition, the main character, Piper, is moderately severely deaf.  With hearing aids, she can hear some things, but usually only in quiet areas with few people around.  She often relies on lips and prefers sign language.  As you may know, when a person is lacking in one of the five senses, at least one of the remaining five tends to be stronger to make up for this deficiency.  Its nature's way of giving another means of survival. I know this myself: I have slight hearing loss, and my eye sight is abnormally good to make up for this.  To me, the Five Flavors can also represent the five senses.  Aside from all that, the title can represent the five flavors of the band Dumb as it peels away each layer and discovers itself as a band.

Dumb may not be the best thing to call yourselves when forming a band, but at least Dumb was smart in allowing Piper a trial run as band manager despite the fact that she's deaf.  While the motivation for doing so wasn't pure, it quickly becomes obvious that Dumb could never have grown in leaps and bounds the way it does without Piper's help.  She is the glue that holds everyone together.  On their own, Dumb is a mess.  When they work together, they make magic happen.  Likewise, Dumb is good for Piper.  She feels secluded  from the world of hearing people and goes out of her way not to stand out.  All she wants is to blend in and hide so that people don't stare at her.  Her homelife is deteriorating because her parents have raided her college fund to pay for a cochlear implant for her eleven-month-old sister despite the fact that Piper is still wearing the old, Barbie-doll pink hearing aids she's had for the last seven years.  They don't work as well as people assume, and she resents the fact that her baby sister already hears better than she does...on her dime, no less.  Her dad has never felt the need to learn sign language an her mother no longer gets her.  Even the relationship with her younger brother is dysfunctional.  Dumb helps make Piper discover herself as a person. She becomes stronger, spunkier, more accepting of who she is and who she can be.  She's less afraid to take chances and no longer feels the need to hide all the time.  Dumb even strengthens the family's bond in ways I never saw coming, building new bridges and bringing them together in unexpected ways.  It's easy to root for Piper and Dumb as they rise above the adversity around them and come into themselves.

John is adept at twining together sentences that bring the story home to readers.  He packs a powerful message into his story, but never in a way that feels preachy.  His talent at fleshing out characters is superb.  At first, it seems like the band is full of cliched members, but John fleshes them out and allows readers to care about each one, whether they love or hate them.  He also fleshes out Piper's family in a way I wish more authors would do.  Not enough YA novels feature the home unit or develop what happens at home in the way John does.  For me, the story that occurs at home was my favorite part of the entire novel.  John is so skilled that I wound up loving characters I never though I could early on in the novel and disliking ones I thought I'd like more by the end.  FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB is about family, about life, about friendships, about the way people can change you.  Reading this book really resonates and sends its messages home.

[And on a semi-unrelated sidenote:  I cannot WAIT to read his upcoming 2013 fantasy novel, ELEMENTALS.  The launch date feels too far away for me.  And I don't even want to read it because it's a dystopian novel, even though I do love dystopians.  I want to read it because it reminds me of AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER, and I really loved that show.  Plus, as much as I appreciate contemporary, you all know I'm a fantasy girl at heart!]


This cover has a very "authentic" feel to it.  It has just enough grunge and paper collaging to have a vintage feel on the bottom half.  On the top half, Piper takes center stage, behind the scenes while Dumb is onstage.  She's wearing large sunglasses and has her long hair hanging down, hiding once again from the world even as she steps out in more daring clothing than she's formerly worn.  This cover represents many elements of what readers might expect upon picking up this book.

My favorite aspect of the design is actually the interior when a new chapter starts.

Each chapter heading looks like:

This looks like the same peeling poster stripping that reveals the author's name on the book cover.  

The bottom of each chapter heading looks like:

It's that perfect grungy texture that lets you know this is new and fresh and different, not quite like the pristine pages of all the other books in your room!

Additionally, do you remember when I was talking about the book's title and the way Dumb doesn't work in harmony until Piper comes along?  Check out the awesome spine of this book:

I love the way the words in the title are all disjointed.  None of them are aligned and the words FIVE FLAVORS OF are all over the place as they fight to introduce the word DUMB (which is, itself, crooked and not perfectly straight).  Even if you can't see the cover of this book, the spine is interesting enough to take off the shelf and look at.

(And if you look carefully at the front cover, the words FIVE FLAVORS OF aren't perfectly aligned there, either, even if your eye tricks you into thinking them are.  Plus, they're not in harmony with the word DUMB.  The blurbs from The Philadelphia Inquirer [my local paper, hey!] and the tag WINNER OF THE SCHNEIDER FAMILY BOOK AWARD are slanted as well.  Everything on this cover works well together despite the differing fonts and arrangements, just like Dumb does in the book!)

Designer Kristin Smith has truly used the story elements to tell a story through design in multiple ways.  I'm very impressed with the overall outcome of this novel!

(Sorry, I grabbed my cellphone because it was closest...and it's late at night as I type this, so the lighting isn't great.  You get to peek at my bedsheets, though, lol!)


  1. Oh wow, what a wonderful review! I really liked how you told the story behind the cover design, it is just awesome.

    I read Five Flavors of Dumb last year and totally fell in love with it, too! Here's my review, if you're interested!

    Sana @ artsy musings of a bibliophile

    1. Thank you, Sana! <3

      Looking at design is one of my favorite things. I love this part of a review and sometimes, I even write it before I do the book review! In fact, I think I did that this time...

  2. Yay!! :D I'm SO glad that you liked it & bought it off my rec! :) I think you brought up a lot of really great points in this review! :) Makes me want to go and read it again!

  3. Hey,
    I loved the inside look at the book! And...
    I love it if you would check out my blog. I'm just getting started and it is really hard to get any circulation around. I would greatly appreciate the help in spreading the word, I'll be spreading the word on yours, I love how you write your reviews and the varieties you have in your books.
    I also have another blog that is slightly older and I post, now mostly original poetry or how my day was, or scenes/chapters from play's/books of my original work. I would appreciate your feedback on whether you my poetry/writing is any good.

    Book Review Blog:

    Personal/ Poetry Blog:

    Fond Regards,

    1. Hey Anna! Thanks so much. The inside look is one of my favorite aspects of a book, too!

      You look like you're off to a good start with your blog. You have some great, unusual ways of describing a book! Have you tried doing memes such as Follow Friday or Teaser Tuesdays or Waiting on Wednesday, etc.? This is the best way to get new followers! Plus, social media sites such as Twitter really help out. I never used the site until I started getting more serious about blogging, and it has helped a lot!


Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to stop and comment! I appreciate it more than I can say. I try to respond to each one!