Kate Dougherty [email protected], [email protected] Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John. John, Antony. Five Flavors of Dumb. New York: Dial Books. Hard to believe that this novel came out a full FIVE YEARS AGO now. But if you haven't read it, and wonder what it's all about, please check out. Five flavors of Dumb / AntonyJohn. p. cm. Summary: Eighteen-year-old Piper becomes the manager for her classmates' popular rock band, called Dumb, giving.
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Five flavors of Dumb / Antony John. p. cm. Summary: Eighteen-year-old Piper becomes the manager for her classmates' popular rock band, called Dumb, giving. FIVE FLAVOR S OF B M DU ANTONY JOHN DIAL BOOKS AN IMPRINT OF PENGUIN GROUP (USA) INC. FIVE FLAVOR S OF B M DU ANT. inner rock star, even though she can't hear. Dumb's music? FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB. A Discussion Guide for. Winner of the Schneider. Family Book Award.
Every boy who passed by ogled them, including Finn, who almost walked into me. Recommended to Flannery by: Which is how my fist came to make contact with the cinder block wall. I wanted to be sure that Kallie had gone, and I hoped the rest of the foyer had emptied too. Piper's deaf. Just shut up. And boy, was this book a rich breeding ground for that love.
Piper is deaf. She makes a deal with the members of the band Dumb to be their manager and get them a paying gig by the end of the month. She can't hear the music but to her its all about the feeling you got watching the band perform. As the book goes on she becomes really invested in shaping the band t This was such a refreshing YA read. As the book goes on she becomes really invested in shaping the band to be the best it can be.
Meanwhile she struggles with self-confidence and feels alone even in her family. What I loved to see throughout the book was watching Piper become her own person. The more she began to take control of her position in the band the more that translated to her personal life. It helped her open her eyes to things she hadn't noticed before and learned from it. This book had some other great characters that I fell in love with: Ed, Kallie, and Fin.
In their own ways they helped Piper be who she wanted be. This was a very touching book and I loved that music was a big part of it.
Mar 31, Miranda rated it it was amazing Shelves: Combine that with the fact that everyone and their dog has been praising this book, and my need to read it grew pretty dang high, as did my expectations. At all. Now on to the good! They respect each other, he respects her agency, they fight sometimes and have disagreements, they have lives outside of each other There were times when I honestly had to put the book down and sigh happily because, finally, a couple in YA did it for me.
Another great thing is the characters. I loved these girls. I love how they do start out unfriendly towards each other, their emotions ranging from uneasiness, dislike to downright hatred, but then they grow and learn and finally respect and love one another. They all have moments of empowerment, which was amazing to read. Well, more fool I. Kallie ended up being my favorite character out of all of them, right next to Piper.
I love that Antony John gave us people, not cliched characters. There was another situation that I thought would go the way of the YA cliche, but again, more fool I! I dreaded reading his story arc, because I was SO scared everyone would forgive him for being an abusive, creepy jerk.
But no. I honestly cheered when I realized what John was going to do with him.
The way they handled it was just horrid. Add to that the fact that her Dad is quite honestly a total jerk for the better part of the book, and I just did not care for them at all. However, John does eventually redeem them, and that was no easy feat. A lot of other books seem to have mysteriously disappearing or conveniently absent parents to make their plots easier to write. Antony John has obviously done his research about deafness and has taken every measure to portray it well.
I have major respect for Antony John and how he portrayed it, because he obviously did it with the greatest respect himself. Five Flavors of Dumb is definitely one of those books that lives up to its hype. From the strong cast of characters especially the women to the strong, respectful writing, it is absolutely a book every contemporary YA fan should check out. After spending years working with children with various disabilities, I find I can be pretty critical of books with characters with special needs.
Though I am hearing, I did my graduate program in education at Gallaudet. I had to wonder, as I started, how much would this book irritate me or how much would it ring true After spending years working with children with various disabilities, I find I can be pretty critical of books with characters with special needs.
I had to wonder, as I started, how much would this book irritate me or how much would it ring true? By chapter 3, I was admittedly a little annoyed. Yes, hearing aids are expensive. Yes, they come in all kinds of bright colors which young children like. But seldom would a 17 or 18 year old be wearing the same pair of hearing aids as when they were 7 or 8 years old i.
I was concerned that if John had taken some creative licenses to fit his story or failed to get some basic details where would the rest of the story go? So I took a deep breath, reminded myself that the average reader would not know this and moved on. And I am very glad that I did. First, I like books that I would call "ensemble" stories. Meaning that all of the characters truly play an important role in the book and develop along with the main character.
This is an ensemble book - Piper may be the main character but her family, and the members of the band all have significant roles to play and they all grow and develop over the course of the story. Second, yes, there is some romance in the book It is subtle and appropriate to the story.
Yay for diversity that is not overly done but included in just the right way. Fourth, I actually appreciated many of the adults in this book even with their flaws.
Piper's relationship with her parents are some of the most honest and real things about a deaf child dealing with hearing parents - this is one part that I felt John nailed. I also liked the interesting advice and mentoring she received from Baz, Mr. Belson, Tash's mom, etc. And though Piper's brother Finn is not an adult so maybe this should go under another point but It was surprising in a very good way.
Finally, despite my initial irritation over the technical details and sometimes wondering if John was trying to fit some of the deafness to his story, I definitely found myself loving the book. Once I started it, I pretty much couldn't put it down. Since I can't change a couple of the technical things, I am giving this a 4. View 1 comment. May 02, Sofija rated it it was amazing. Five Flavors of Dumb is the cream of YA genre.
I loved this book to pieces! Educational, inspiring and just plain fun! It is a story about years-old deaf girl who became school rock band manager. At first I was a little bit concern about male author writing from female POV.
But Antony John did a wonderful job. Piper became one of my favorite characters! Not even once was she annoying or unreasonable in any way. And she finds it strange and a little bit offensive when other people do. I loved the Vaughan family dynamics. With out-of-job father, long-hours-working mother, fully-hearing brother and deaf little sister there are a lot of problems in their household.
It was nice to read about them overcoming these problems and support each other like real family should do. I love music. Any kind of it, in any form.
But I am especially fond of rock. There were moments when I would stop reading in the middle of a story and just go listen to Nirvana songs. Dumb was one hell of a rock band. All the members were writing masterpieces. Fame-seeking Josh, indifferent to all except his guitar playing Will, hard and always angry Tash, music loving beautiful Kallie and finally geeky gentlemanlike drummer Ed. All so unique, with their own unforgettable flavors.
I would like to meet and be friends with them. This book had no mean girls, no pages upon pages describing some guy hotness, not even a hint on any love triangle.
The romance in it is delicate and sweet like little sprinkles on big chocolate cake with thick lair of frosting the cake will still be delicious without it, but sprinkles make it even better.
You often expect the book portraying disable characters to be dark and angry and heavy. But Five Flavors of Dumb was anything but. It was very light, fun, spirit lifting book that warms you. I think you all should read this book. It will make a great pastime! Jan 08, Christina Ensconced in Lit rated it it was amazing. Five Flavors of Dumb is hard to describe and simultaneously do it justice-- most superficially, it's about a band named Dumb and a deaf girl aptly named Piper who serves as their manager.
Things I loved, and there are many. As a reader, my heart and soul is in characters, their development and their relationships with each other. And boy, was this book a rich breeding ground for that love. In most typical books, there are one or two characters who stand out in my mind as favorites, but in this bo Five Flavors of Dumb is hard to describe and simultaneously do it justice-- most superficially, it's about a band named Dumb and a deaf girl aptly named Piper who serves as their manager.
In most typical books, there are one or two characters who stand out in my mind as favorites, but in this book I loved them all. Each of Piper's family members is deftly drawn, loved and cherished.
Both parents, Finn, and even little Grace is given their due. I was very moved by the conflict between Piper and her father. The pinnacle of that conflict was done pitch perfectly, and I remember gripping the pages, willing myself to get through it. I felt everything that she was feeling, and at the same time, I felt everything that her father was feeling.
I loved how Piper and Finn started to see their father as a real person and not just as their father. Don't even get me started on the band members.
I will always have a special place in my heart and a bit of a crush on Ed Chen. Tash was vibrantly painted, a splash of color on every page. And Kallie. Somehow I knew she had a big story to tell, and I wasn't disappointed. I am also a musician and loved all descriptions of the music, but the way the story is told, even non-music fanatics will be drawn into the rich description of the music and the band, the stories of the bands from the past and the great artists that came before.
Other surprises: I cried. Which I do not do often. And two twists that I completely got wrong. And loved that I was wrong, because the answers were so right. The last thing I want to add is that I never questioned that Piper was a girl. I was so amazed that Antony John got the tone of a teenage girl so right. I was completely impressed because that is hard to do for even a female writer. If it's not already patently obvious, I was floored by this novel even though I started it with high expectations-- it completely delivered in ways that I never expected.
Antony John will be a force to be reckoned with in the YA genre. I will definitely be following his novels eagerly for years to come. Oct 15, Wendy F rated it really liked it Shelves: I bought this book a long while ago. The back synopsis at the bookstore made me curious but once I got it I just kept pushing it off for other books. What a friggin damn shame! This was a really good book.
I'm astounded that it was written by a man. I'm not trying to say that men can't write, they can. There have been many books written by men that I enjoyed, even books that contained a romance. I'm astounded though, because in my experience those books MC's are generally men or boys. As I type I bought this book a long while ago. Antony John surprised me because while the back sounded good I was a little put off by an author I'd never heard of before writing a book about a deaf girl.
Add to that there's a slow developing romance in there. A really friggin good slow developing romance. I suppose that maybe the end was too perfect, but sometimes don't you just want that perfect ending, especially after it comes on the heels of all that strife? Sometimes you just want to feel good. This book made me feel good. Piper and Ed felt good. Finn, he was such a little cutie! And the references to music were awesome. I want to rock some Kurt Cobain!
There's so much good in this little gem. So fun! Mr John, if you read this, big kudos to you. I'll read pretty much anything you write. View all 4 comments.
Sep 04, TheBookSmugglers rated it really liked it. Five Flavors of Dumb was one of my notable reads of and I was super happy when I heard it made the final of this tournament. I think this is a book that celebrates diversity in a very positive, uplifting way and it well deserves to be in the final.
In the interest of being totally fair, I decided to read it again to see how it would fare on second reading. And do you know…I still love it. I still feel this book is well-written, engaging, with a bunch of vivid characters and a lot of fun. Having said that, I do have to say that perhaps the book is too neat — every single problem is resolved by the ending, all problems addressed.
It is perhaps an unrepentantly happy book - not that there is anything wrong with that. And finally, of course there is the fact that Piper is deaf. That put me on guard before starting the book as I was worried that her hearing impairment would be the beginning and the ending of her characterisation. But being deaf is not what defines Piper as a character at all. Speaking of language, I love how Piper observes how different people use the sign language in different ways to talk to her: Piper is an awesome character: But she is also a bit of a prick when the book starts, judgemental and even resentful of her baby sister and that makes her even more awesome because she feels like a real person, with all the good and bad, instead of a Pollyanna-type character.
It is easy to understand too, both her behaviour and also that of her parents — just imagine the situation they are in: How to deal with all of it? It is a hard situation with no easy answers and I think that the author addressed it all really well. Thea's Take: As I said in our last review for this tournament, contemporary YA is not really my forte. I had heard of Five Flavors of Dumb not just from Ana and her review last year but from other reviews across the blogosphere, so I was at least familiar with this title when I started reading.
This is one lovely, charming, uplifting book. I agree with Ana on all counts - the book is well-written and the characterizations are the heart of the novel, particularly Piper's narrative voice. The frustration that Piper feels with her family is painfully rendered and powerful.
The relationship she has with her parents - her anger with her mother and distant, resentful father as they dote on Piper's baby sister Grace who was born deaf but because she's so young was given an expensive transplant with money taken from Piper's college trust - is a layered, complicated thing.
Her relationship with her brother, Finn, is also a complex creature, as - how many several years older siblings are wont to do - she tends to underestimate, misunderstand, or even ignore her freshman brother.
There's also Piper's relationships with the band, Dumb, and how she becomes their manager and helps maneuver them into the limelight with a climactic final performance. I loved the time spent with the female members of the band, with curmudgeonly Tasha and supposedly vapid Kallie and how they are revealed to be so much more than appearances suggest.
In contrast, the male band members are slightly underdeveloped with the exception of Ed, who is awesome , but since the other characters and Piper, in particular, are handled so well, I can hardly complain. On a tangential note, I also loved the very clever way of introducing younger readers to rock icons like Nirvana and Jimmi Hendrix - because Piper is deaf and doesn't have that grounding in musical history, as she learns their stories, new, younger readers that don't necessarily know about these legends also get indoctrinated - and never once did this feel inauthentic it's ingenious, really.
Five Flavors is as much about a girl finding her voice and growing up as it is a tribute to Seattle - not just musically, but also with subtle odes to the city itself even down to the weather and love of coffee. But I digress. At the end of the day, Five Flavors of Dumb is a fairy tale. It's the story of a struggling band trying to make it, filtered through the unique perspective of a band manager who happens to be deaf.
Along the way, even if the band doesn't make it, each of the characters learn something invaluable about themselves and each other, and grow because of it. My only criticism for this novel isn't really a criticism at all: There's nothing wrong with that at all and does not diminish my love for the novel in any way - but it does mean something in the context of this Nerds Heart YA Tournament, in my opinion.
Is It Award-worthy? Now the hard thing will be to decide between this one and the other finalist as they are both so good and deserving but in different ways. I think this is a fantastic, lovely, fairy tale of a book and I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. I completely understand and support the fact that it is a finalist in this competition.
After finishing this one, though, I immediately knew which of the two NHYA titles would be my pick for winner. P iper is trying to bring the high school rock band "Dumb" some paying gigs on a certain dare. And given that fact that she is deaf isn't an incentive to the situation. She struggles not to be jealous of her baby sister who has had a cochlear implant surgery and now can hear almost perfectly, of her brother who has escaped her fate altogether, angry at her father who refuses to sign when it is her preferable way to communicate.
Her band "Dumb", also has problems.
Kallie, who has been asked to join only to be an eye candy. Josh, the proudly obnoxious jerk. Tash, a girl who seemingly have only joined to ogle at Will. Will, who shows no emotions at all. Ed, the geek in the making of a rock star. I have thoroughly loved every chapter of this book and have tasted all flavors of Dumb and totally fell in love with them all.
Don't hesitate to pick this book up. Because even in the worst of times, this book will still be able to cheer you up. Now you're threatening to sue me if I quit. I don't know what to do. But I still want you to know that I think you're a really good manager. And I don't hate you at all. I don't even hate you for having blond hair, and gorgeous blue eyes, and a chest people can actually see.
Or for the way people listen when you open your mouth. Over eighteen years, I had done so much to earn the trust and respect of my family and peers-a lifetime of noble works, you might say. And yet it took just eighteen minutes for me to perfect the art of lying, misleading, and perverting truth for personal profit.
Friday OCtober 26, 1: In phrases long and short, scrawled and carved, Kurt Cobain's apostles had composed eulogies to their fallen leader. And however much I wanted to dismiss the words as simple graffiti, I couldn't ignore the sentiment or the distances covered on the way to this place, the final destination on the Kurt Cobain pilgrimage. I could have been cynical, of course, but that would have been dishonest.
Because 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 evven begin to imagine. And I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't profoundly jealous of every single one of them. Do you think I'm going to like this look a year from now? That next month I'll wake up and say, 'That's not me at all. And no matter what godforsaken mess KAllie ends up with today, she will too.
And so will Tash, and everyone else who comes in here. But you're worrying about the wrong thing. Don't worry about wanting to change; start worrying when you don't feel like changing anymore.
And in the meantine, enjoy every version of yourself you ever meet, because not everybody who discovers their tru identity likes what they find. Mar 22, Kat Lost in Neverland rated it liked it Shelves: Iclosed my eyes and concentrated on feeling the sun against my face—so warm, so relaxing, so rare in the Seattle fall. Imust have dozed off, because the next thing Iknew, Finn was shaking my arm pretty hard, which scared the crap out of me. Inarrowed my eyes, but nodded anyway. See, deafness is complicated.
Iused to hear perfectly, but when Iwas six my hearing began to fail. The constant noise of school is not conducive to hearing aid use, which is why Istill prefer to sign whenever Ican. Which is how Iknew he was sucking up to me. Which meant that, yes. Barely ten seconds later, Mr. Belson—reluctant math teacher yet enthusiastic mascot of the school chess club—waddled through the door and made a beeline for my car.
He came to an abrupt halt a few feet from Finn, but his enormous stomach continued to wobble. Icould tell by his heightened color and incensed expression that the words were going to be shouted. You were there. All he seems to have mastered is the deer-in-the- headlights look. Iconjured a broad smile. He did a double take. What are you doing here? Belson, it still takes me by surprise sometimes.
Isaw him in that room. Belson wiped the sweat off his forehead with a carefully folded paper napkin. And an exceptional chess club captain, Imight add. After all, if there was one area that Iwas extremely experienced in, it was prolonged silences. Belson remained frozen to the spot, pondering his next move. Eventually he replaced the napkin in his pocket with a measured gesture and stared directly at Finn. Your next transgression will result in suspension, you understand? What were you doing?
Ishot back. Just hanging out.
With all your newfriends, I assume. He looked away and refused to take the bait. Or maybe he was just trying to spare my feelings, refusing to confirm that one month into high school he was already more popular than me.
Igot into the car and shoved the key in the ignition. Iwas just pissed at Finn. It was all so predictable. Pick another. I peered through the window. I knew Ed was frustrated at himself for letting us down, but Tash and Will still looked freaked out.
And Josh was as clueless as before, rehearsing his movements like they had any relevance whatsoever in a recording studio. Dumb is going to perform the song over and over for the next hour. I looked at Dumb again, all of them still now, wondering why the instructions had dried up.
Which is when I realized that Baz had turned off the connection between the rooms. Baz snorted. Baz shrugged as he flicked a switch. If you need a drink, grab a bottle of water from my bag in the corner. Seven of those were incomplete versions, aborted mid-song following catastrophic collapses that caused the entire group to surrender en masse.
The other one was bad enough that Ed looked deflated and Tash looked psychotic. Another half hour, another six versions four of them complete!
Even Josh reluctantly sat down between takes, as dismayed as the Energizer Bunny to discover his batteries were running low. I told Baz to take five, and I joined the band next door. They all removed their headphones, but only Ed looked up as I walked in.
Tash was already nodding vigorously. But I think we can get one perfect continuous take. But you will, and I think you can do it. I saw you on the school steps, and you had everyone transfixed. And my guitar sounds weird. I hate not being to hear the others the way I normally do.
This was my band, and my problem. I needed to fix it myself. You could all watch that. But no one did. Instead, Ed reached behind himself and pulled the little black box from his bag. He moved a dial, set the display flashing, and handed it over. Then he ran out to the hallway and grabbed a broom. Blisters formed on my thumb and palm, but I never took my eyes off that stupid flashing display.
If Dumb could play through the pain, so could I. When else would I get to feel it too? If so, make sure you get equal billing. People will pay a lot to see the girl with the broom.
Eventually it was just Ed and me, but he hesitated when we reached his house. One of the times the song broke down, it was my fault. But that session was so new.
No audience to distract me. I was the one banging a broom handle on the floor. You held us together. They just hammered a staff into the ground. Was he any good? Right up to the moment he rammed the staff on his toe, got gangrene, and died. But hey! It looks like your feet are doing just fine. Nice shoes by the way. Unfortunately, Josh had also scheduled an audience.
More significantly, Kallie was there to stay—she pulled up a chair and sat down, crossing her freshly waxed legs as though she was discouraging the boys from taking the closer look that her miniskirt seemed to demand. I stared at her in a way that was meant to say What are you doing here? But Kallie just smiled right back, her lips parting by the smallest degree, revealing perfect white teeth.
Within seconds his focus was on some acrobatic dance moves that seemed more suited to Disney than Dumb. Meanwhile, Tash gripped her guitar like it was an assault rifle. I estimated ten minutes before someone got hurt. A little web-based research revealed that budget cuts and a declining listenership threatened to bankrupt the station, so I added a line saying that if he promoted Dumb I could guarantee at least a thousand new listeners from our high school, where the band had a cult following again, the sentiment was true even if my numbers were somewhat unscientific.
I peered over the top of the computer and realized all eyes were on me. At the back of the room, Ed rolled his eyes. I told you, there are too many other vibrations. Just wave your hand somewhere that Piper can see. His eyes twinkled, and I felt myself turn bright red. Thankfully Kallie will change that for us. I slammed the door shut and hoped the crumbling soundproofing on the walls still worked.
I really mean that. What does she play? And Ed has all the flair of a bank clerk. Josh was the ideal lead singer— energetic, charismatic, and hopelessly in love with himself. So what if she contributed nothing musically? But still.
And believe me, Kallie makes us look amazing. Dumb needs Kallie. Kallie is Dumb. He laughed loudly. Does it matter? We were colluding. And I guess he had. After all, he knew a whole lot more than me about bands, and his logic seemed flawless. He had so much to learn. All those in favor of Kallie joining Dumb. I peered at him expectantly, but he shook his head. But at that moment, all I could see was that Ed was voting against me, and my face must have registered my sense of betrayal.
Josh clapped his hands together and attempted to shake my hand like it was all my idea. I was watching Tash, her nostrils flaring, eyes shooting daggers at Kallie. Mom waltzing in with the revised contract as if she were a servant proffering a gift to a monarch.
It was supposed to make me laugh, to keep some of the growing tension at bay, but I knew I was about to make things worse. Before you give that to me, I need to tell you something. Mom ditched her faithful-servant impersonation.
What is it? I need you to add another name. A different name. Mom was almost never sarcastic, especially when signing, so I knew she was really exasperated. Or maybe just exhausted, as she was getting back later every day. By the time I redo the contract it might include half the school. I clammed up because Mom was making fun of me, and she knew it too, because she sighed and changed gear.
Kallie Sims, I finger-spelled, then added school goddess in angry gestures that surprised us both. And what does the school goddess play? I had to know, of course.
How could it not be? And yet Mom hugged me, saving me from having to incriminate myself. When she stepped back, she tilted her head to the side. Are you sure you want me to redo this contract? Kallie, right? She finger-spelled the name for confirmation. Mom was halfway out the door when she stopped. Would you like me to add a clause about new and departing members? Just something to keep the group fixed at five. Yes, I signed with a desperation that must have completely given me away. An hour later, Mom reappeared with an updated contract.
Send MP3. One line. One freaking line, but the MP3 request sent me into a cold sweat. I pulled up Google and started reading articles about soft rock, jotting down notes as I went: Chicago, Toto, Air Supply note to self: Lost in Love note to self: Oh God, I just barfed up my nose I took a time-out and thought cleansing thoughts.
Ten minutes later I received a new message: Expenses only. Barf or no barf, that was all I needed. Without wasting another moment I ran out to the car, drove to the local library, and checked out a bunch of CDs. While I was there, I e-mailed Baz to say we were working on a new song we needed to record at the session on Sunday. Ed sighed dramatically, but forced himself to perk up as a new customer joined us.
I figured our conversation was about to be put on hold, so I took a seat at the back of the shop and studied the ancient black-and-white photos of guys in uncomfortable sporting attire holding gigantic oars. Half a dozen round oak tables filled the available space, while the warmth of an electric fire lured people to stay a little longer than they might have intended. The seven people who sipped coffee from chunky glasses seemed as much a part of the place as the furniture.
As soon as another customer had been satisfied, Ed shuffled over and sat down opposite me. I tried to hide my relief. How can you not know what she plays? One song. Ed seemed frozen to the spot until reawakened by the sound of the door opening. Look at the CD inlays and read the lyrics, then come up with something similar. Over the next fifteen minutes I scribbled away, penning verse and chorus of the most insipid love song ever composed: Time has passed since last I saw your face, The memory of your touch Your smile, your heart, your grace, The visions that I once enjoyed have gone without a trace.
I can do something with this. Mom shrugged. Tell Dad. Dad was in the kitchen, banging spatulas against countertops and pans to see how Grace would respond. For her part, Grace was enjoying the entertainment, swinging her head around to follow every sound. Eventually she seemed to get bored, craning her neck toward the front door.
Dad clapped his hands and laid a big fat kiss on her tiny forehead. It was probably one of the top ten words spoken each day at school, but coming from Dad it sounded so very different.
I shook my head and was about to leave when he stopped me. What are you up to? Breathe in, breathe out. So have you made any money yet? I yelled to Finn that he had one minute to get in the car, then slammed the front door behind me.
See, Dad, I can hear it too! Finn used the full sixty seconds, and when he piled into the passenger seat he was out of breath and his shoelaces were untied. When I slammed my fist against the dash, he sat bolt upright. Is it me? Finn raised his eyebrows expectantly, waited for me to continue. Focus on getting them to play better. Add some new songs. I took the car out of first gear—my less-than-ideal solution to a faulty parking brake—and ground the gearstick into reverse.
Then I paused. Because for all his faults, Finn looked small in the seat beside me, and I knew he was right. Besides, I was about to say something that would annoy him: Something was up, and I just hoped I found out what it was before Belson did.
Josh sidled up and grinned at me, presumably to reassure me that this was all for the best. Meanwhile Kallie ran her fingers along a broken guitar string, seemingly unaware of his attention. Can you fix this, Tash? Then she tried tuning the neighboring string as well, which instantly snapped. She gazed at her dwindling supply of spare strings and shook her head. A tuning fork? I only play by myself, so I just tune the upper strings to the lowest.
Tash paused again, but it was just for show. Which they almost did. After all, there were only twelve more days until my month was up. I never knew when I had Will, so I just discounted him completely. Then I looked at Kallie—she was technically a member too now, hard as that was to believe—and she smiled back vacantly, which was perfect. Then I signaled to Ed to get started, which he did after an annoyed glance at his watch.
When she finally joined everyone else, she moved her chair as far away from Kallie as possible, even though they were playing roughly the same music. Meanwhile, the rest of the band plowed on, lost in their own little worlds. When Josh reprised his hilarious antics for the third run-through, Baz had clearly had enough. He jumped out of his chair, shut down the mixing console, and began pacing around the control room. I need the cash. He ran his hand along his ponytail, looked through the window into the studio, and rolled his eyes as Josh ogled Kallie from behind.
Convince me this is a band worth fighting for. There was no togetherness, no blending—just five separate flavors of an indigestible dish called Dumb. Baz opened a magazine and sat down, propping his feet up like he was settling down for a restful afternoon. What else was he supposed to do?
And yet I already felt nostalgic as I peered through the glass and my eyes glazed over with tears. I wondered what might have been if they could only have put their egos aside and concentrated on the one thing that mattered most: It was too wasteful, too frustrating to comprehend.
I was too angry. So angry I needed to hit something. Which is how my fist came to make contact with the cinder block wall.
Just shut up.
Right now, all of you should be ashamed to be heard by anyone. Just one hour. And so am I. And for the next hour—while my knuckles bled and my hand throbbed—Dumb worked hard.
My eyes told me that no single rendition was perfect, but after each one they compared notes, and listened as Baz offered suggestions. When the session was over they looked exhausted, packing up their instruments in silence. One by one they filed past me without a word of support or dissent, and I realized that in forging a group from Dumb, I might have alienated myself. In the far corner of the room, Baz ejected a CD and handed it over.
If this is who Dumb is going to be, then send it out to radio stations, put it on your webpage. Start generating buzz. Get people listening. Do us all a favor and wait a while before booking it, okay? Get everyone up to speed.
Learn new material. Tash told me you wanted her microphone turned off. Maybe it was deserved too, because instead of thinking about how I should bring Tash back in line, I spent the rest of the day wondering if I could just cover the whole thing up. But when had things ever been that easy?
Got your MP3. This Wednesday. Go to 4th floor, suite Please confirm. Everyone was gratifyingly enthusiastic about the news, even though they still thought soft rock completely sucked. Tash made sure her mom let her off work that Wednesday evening, and after reminding me that school nights are for homework, my mom gave the go-ahead too. The euphoria even carried over to the extra rehearsal Dumb scheduled for Wednesday lunchtime.
For thirty minutes I sat back and felt the glimmer of pride that historically precedes the most catastrophic falls. Rain was misting in from the Puget Sound when we arrived outside the downtown studio of KSFT-FM; or rather, the stained concrete office building within which the studio was buried. Windows reflected amber streetlamps, but there were no signs of life inside. And waited.
When 7: And waited again. I was practically shaking by the time Ed tapped my arm to let me know the door had clicked unlocked. It was 7: I scanned the not-to-scale map on the wall and hurried everyone toward the only elevator. I need to pee. There was barely room for three people, and Phil seemed to equate to three people all by himself. Just do your best. I shrugged. He was here a moment ago.
So which one of you wrote to me? The pit-stain in his T-shirt was delightfully visible across my shoulder. Suddenly Phil was tapping me on the arm. I took a deep breath. I got the feeling he was a man who was used to receiving bad news. Got it? Besides, Phil was already barreling into the booth, evicting Josh from the office chair and exiling him to one of the off-balance stools on the other side. The office chair dipped about six inches when Phil sat down.
I swung around as I felt the floor vibrate. Ed had stamped his foot to get my attention. I could feel the warmth of his hand through my sweater. I swallowed hard. Ed nodded and turned away while I examined the place where his hand had been. Seconds later, I glanced up to see Phil waving his right arm frantically. I tried to read their body language, but they were all sitting bolt upright, which either meant a they had good posture, or b they were petrified. One minute down, twenty-nine to go.
When the static fizzled out, Phil leaned forward and resumed his monologue. I could even hear his voice, but the studio monitor inflected everything with a buzzing that obscured the words. She began to hunch her shoulders too, a far cry from her customary breezy movements. I wished I knew what she was saying.
I felt so helpless and inadequate, just watching the rise and fall of her shoulders, like that gave me any clue at all. But then I noticed Phil, beaming at her every word. Maybe Kallie had a talent for talking about soft rock after all. Phil launched into another extended question, then stared at Kallie expectantly. She seemed more relaxed this time. I leaned back and forced myself to breathe normally again. I was still focused on my breathing when I noticed Phil waving his left hand energetically.
He laughed with childlike innocence, waggled his finger, clapped appreciatively, then licked his lips and drank from a cracked mug like a man dying of thirst. When he thunked it down on the desk before him, he turned bright red, and it dawned on me that he was acting the way Josh did around Kallie.
In fact, he seemed to have regressed about thirty years, practically leering at her. Phil was coming on to Kallie. Meanwhile, Tash had fully turned her chair ninety degrees, to get a better view of the girl she evidently planned to dismember later that evening.
I glanced at my watch and willed the remaining few minutes to pass without violence. I tried not to gag. Ten bucks okay? No way. Five for gas. Five for discretionary refreshments. By the time I got to the elevator, everyone had already gone downstairs. I jabbed the elevator call button, then waited an eternity as it ground its way back toward me.
But it was too late to undo the interview now. I ran outside as soon as the elevator deposited me on the ground floor, but Tash was already laying into her nemesis. He held the bill like it was a piece of used toilet roll. I did it. Our discussion would probably have gone on much longer, except that Tash had pocketed the money and commenced verbally assaulting Kallie again, and I knew I needed to intervene.
Tell him that someone else can speak instead. I really am. I never wanted you in this group anyway. Now that her hair was getting wet from the misty rain it seemed to lose some of its life, hanging slick against her head.
I love what we do. You can tell, right? I really nailed it at the recording session. Wake up, Kallie. We told Baz to shut down your channel. You never played a note on that recording. She simply smiled like she understood, and forgave us all anyway. Josh hurried after her, stopped her and wrapped an arm around her. Kallie buried her face in his shoulder and cried as he ran his hands across her back, up and down, up and down, and down, down, down, until they rested provocatively on her butt.
With a shuddering breath, Kallie pulled away and continued her solitary march down the lamp-lit street. I wondered if she knew where she was going. I worried that she was lost. Everyone shuffled back to the car, until only Josh and I remained on the sidewalk. As he approached me, he waved the five-dollar bill accusingly. Just the same as we live with Ed.
Ed can actually play his instrument. Ed is a musician. Heck, Ed has a functioning brain. So would Tash. Because I convinced Will and Tash to give you a chance to prove yourself.
We gave you a month, but all you needed was three weeks. I remembered when I first saw it in the school yearbook, a passport-sized photo with all the mysterious allure of a Vogue photo shoot. And now here it was again, blown up to fill the entire screen.
I glanced up from the computer to see if Finn had come downstairs yet, but no. He probably figured there was no need to be on time for school when he was always late leaving at the end of the day. I finished my last piece of waffle and checked out the photo again. Maybe I should have been thrilled. All press is good press, right?
And the photo was just too large, like the authors had decided that their audience would enjoy ogling Kallie even more than reading the text below. I scanned the article. It was All About Kallie, and whatever she had said on the radio had clearly enchanted concerned parents across Washington State. Even religious bloggers got in on the act, describing Dumb as ideal role models for teens everywhere.
Below one of them, a caption read: Because as Finn entered the kitchen and stared at me like he was about to administer CPR, it dawned on me that Kallie had just become the face of Dumb—a pretty face that Tash was no doubt eager to rearrange. CHAPTER 23 It was raining hard by the time school ended, so I stood just inside the main doors and watched a thousand students disgorge like water down a drain.
Several of them actually flicked their heads in my direction as they passed, which represented a serious shift from my customary invisible state. In any case, I kind of liked the attention. Turns out she was just avoiding anyone connected to the band—not a positive development, but certainly understandable.
She stood with her supermodel posse, all head flicks and lip biting. Every boy who passed by ogled them, including Finn, who almost walked into me. I sensed that the conversation I was about to have with Kallie might be delicate, and I wanted some moral support, so I told Finn I needed him to interpret for me.
Finn sighed. But he followed me anyway. She even turned away from me slightly, forcing me to stand right in front of her before signing. Finn looked crushed, his eyes half closed while he relayed my message: I know she can read my lips. I wanted to scream. I thrust printouts of the blogs at her—the glowing praise, the Kallie love-fest. She glanced at the text and handed them back. I would. People want to see you. My mother is a lawyer. If you leave, she will sue you. I gave him my death-ray stare, but he returned it with interest, then slung his book bag over his shoulder and skulked away with a shake of his head.
I felt myself redden. I was suddenly acutely aware that our discussion had attracted quite a crowd, most of them gawking at Kallie like she was in the process of spontaneously combusting. Which, in a way, I suppose she was.
I tried to shut out the incriminating glares as I shuffled after her. My hand was shaking as I pulled open the restroom door. Thankfully we were the only girls in there, which meant there were no other witnesses as she bit her lip to prevent her whole face from creasing up.