Five Flavors of Dumb: A Book Review

“…bands fall out. But at the end of the day, they’re like family. You get back together because you have to, because you’re stronger together than you are apart.”

Book: Five Flavors of Dumb
Author: Antony JohnFive Flavors of Dumb

Blurb:

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

My Thoughts:

This book has hovered around on my TBR list for over a year, but I’ve never gotten around to reading it. When I saw it in the library, I felt chastised and I picked it up. Trust me, I’m glad I did.

I hate to sound pretentious and condescending, but initially I found the premise impossible. When I read the blurb, I wondered out loud: How can Piper be a band manager when she can’t even hear music?
I’m sorry for that tactless question. Piper really proved me wrong. At the risk of sounding cheesy, just because you can hear music doesn’t mean you understand it; just because you can’t hear it- doesn’t mean you can’t understand it.

This book is a journey on appreciating music, family, friends and your own power. This is a coming of age book set in Seattle focusing on the early heavy and grunge rock that the city’s famous for. If you’ve ever lived in Seattle (like me!) or even visited- you know how much pride the city takes in its’ music scene and its’ casual love for the art.

The supporting characters were well-developed, multi-facetious ones. The band was full of strong personalities (that clashed more often than not). In a non-preachy way, Mr. John shows us the perils of quick judgement and how powerful bonds can be formed amongst the most unlikely people.
Family played an important role in the book. Mom, Dad, Younger Brother, Baby Sister- Piper’s eyes opened to who they really were and vice versa. In recent memory, I can’t think of any book with such stupendous character development.

The romance in this book is seriously cute. A crush which grows into friendship which grows into something more, all set against the backdrop of chess, drums and coffee (yes, another Seattle thing).

This book is a fantastic learning opportunity. You will learn so much about deaf culture, Seattle and music. At the same time, you’ll empathise so strongly with Piper and the Five Flavors of Dumb, you will walk away amazed. Read the book. You will not regret it.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Books Like This: Everything Leads to You, Made You Up

Quotables:

“Don’t worry about wanting to change; start worrying when you don’t feel like changing anymore. And in the meantime, enjoy every version of yourself you ever meet, because not everybody who discovers their true identity likes what they find.”

“Not at all. It’s why people come. They say it’s about looking smart, or beautiful, or professional, but it’s not. Gray-haired ladies try to recapture their former brunette. Brunettes want to go blond. Other women go for colors that don’t arise in
nature. Each group thinks it’s completely different than the others, but I don’t see it that way. I’ve watched them looking at themselves in the mirror, and they’re not interested in conforming or rebelling, they just want to walk out of here feeling like themselves again.”

“Music. It’s not about those things. It’s about a feeling. It’s about expressing yourself. It’s about letting go.”

The Art of Lainey: A Book Review

Book: The Art of Lainey
Author: Paula Stokes

The Art of Lainey

Cover: 4/5

Plot:5/5

Blurb:

Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.

And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they’re sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few “dates”, it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game.

What’s a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you’re meant to be with if you’re still figuring out the person you’re meant to be?

My Thoughts:

Yes, I thought the cover was really cute but in this case it was the blurb that drew me in. I was practically salivating to read this book after reading the blurb. For one thing, it promised lots and lots of girl power. If you want another reason, I’ll give you one: I secretly (not so secretly now) love the whole premise of pretending to date someone to make someone else jealous. And this book did not disappoint. This book had girl power galore. Lainey uses the help of the Sun Tzu’s famous book ‘The Art of War’ to make her ex-boyfriend see what he’s really missing out on. At first her tactics were a bit obvious and weak but then she grows to be a skilful manipulator. At the same time she never loses her sweet, innocent and (maybe just a little bit) idealistic side. This book celebrates friendships- both new and old- ,the unconditional support they give and how they always do what (they think) will be best for you.

Characters:4/5

I really didn’t like Lainey at the beginning. She’s beautiful, popular, athletic, etc. etc. Worst of all is that she acts totally entitled and snobbish looking down on people who don’t act like her or choose to look different. When her boyfriend breaks up with her, she gives such shallow reasons for why it was a bad idea. In the first hundred or so pages, I repeatedly cringed at Lainey and her desperate, stalkery behaviour.  But her lies the true beauty of the book: Lainey’s opening of her world-view is gradual and it feels so realistic.  As a character she grows quietly and sweetly, empathising with people she would have never talked to before, going places she never would have before and taking the freedom and time to develop her own personality instead of conforming to her friend’s expectations. This book really struck a chord with me. Yes, Lainey can be selfish and shallow. But then, that’s part of being a teenager isn’t it? . She’s ordinary enough to make you feel like she’s someone you know (maybe even yourself) but at the same time she grows and changes so much it’s impossible not to admire her.  

Her best friend Bianca is there for her every step of the way. She’s not as popular as Lainey but the girls have a true friendship that reaches way back.  They have an amazing relationshipthat is effortless to understand. Within seconds of Bianca appearing in the book I was completely invested in it. The loyalty and support between these two is completely heart-warming, even though the girls aren’t entirely alike. I loved how Bee was there for Lainey when she needed to be, and managed to always say the right things, without feeling like a superficial sidekick. It reminds how powerful an ordinary friendship can be in a character-driven story, when written well. 

You can’t help but hate Lainey’s other best friends, Kendall who is overly popular (and obsessed with it), narcissistic and manipulative. But Paula Stokes does a good job developing her and at the end, you can sort of see where she’s coming from…sort of.

Micah’s sister was truly adorable. She was precocious enough to give good advice, enough flair to suggest blue clip-on highlights and just young and sweet enough to hero worship her brother and Lainey.

Paula Stokes really has a gift for creating side characters. All of them felt so realistic and well-rounded. I’d love to read a spinoff in any one of their point of views.

Romance:5/5

I fell in love with the romance. It may sound cliché but it’s true. The romance was sweet, gradual an thoroughly beautiful. The love triangle was kind of a metaphor: Jason was Lainey’s ex and he was the golden-boy. He was popular and he was the easy choice, the shallow choice. Micah was more difficult. He had tattoos and piercings, he baked pastries and was a bit of a softie inside. His subtle mocking challenged Lainey to step out of her comfort zone and broaden her horizons. Definitely one of my favourite love interests.

Plotholes:5/5

Other than Lainey’s shallowness in the beginning, there was really nothing I was against. But even then, Paula  Stokes was laying the framework for the book so I can’t really complain about that.

Overall Rating:4.5/5

One of my favourite 2014 releases. This book inspred me to go over The Art of War myself. Maybe I’ll do a follow up post on that someday. In the meantime, go ahead and read this cute, sweet and fun book.

 

 

On The Jellicoe Road: A Book Review

Book: On the Jellicoe Road

Author/Authoress: Melina Marchetta

On the Jellicoe Road

Cover: 4/5

Plot: 5/5

 Blurb:

I’m dreaming of the boy in the tree. I tell him stories. About the Jellicoe School and the Townies and the Cadets from a school in Sydney. I tell him about the war between us for territory. And I tell him about Hannah, who lives in the unfinished house by the river. Hannah, who is too young to be hiding away from the world. Hannah, who found me on the Jellicoe Road six years ago. Taylor is leader of the boarders at the Jellicoe School. She has to keep the upper hand in the territory wars and deal with Jonah Griggs – the enigmatic leader of the cadets, and someone she thought she would never see again. And now Hannah, the person Taylor had come to rely on, has disappeared. Taylor’s only clue is a manuscript about five kids who lived in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. She needs to find out more, but this means confronting her own story, making sense of her strange, recurring dream, and finding her mother – who abandoned her on the Jellicoe Road.

My thoughts:

If you thought-even for a second- that it was impossible for a single book to be light-hearted and mysteriously dark and emotional, then you need to read this book just to prove yourself wrong. The book starts off with a fun and frivolous rivalry between three groups of teenagers; the students from the Jellicoe School, the Cadets and the Townies. The three groups negotiate with each other so seriously and solemnly for land access, return of hostages and so earnestly declare ‘war’ on each other, it’s impossible not to get drawn in. Throughout all the skirmishes and pranks, the characters come up with such sharp, witty remarks it’s impossible not to fall head over heels for them.

Melina Marchetta introduces another dimension to this book by bringing in the histories and backstories of all of the characters. The leaders of the three opposing factions somehow bind together to become a group of five. Together, they figure out the tragic and beautiful story of a group of five friends who fell apart when a member died. As the story winds together the teens figure out just how entrenched the story is in their pasts. This book is about past and present colliding and of figuring out how history can shape your story. It’s about how things get lost in interpretation (or should I say, misinterpretation?) and figuring out how everyone belongs.

Characters: 5/5

The characters in this book wrung me out, stamped all over my heart and ultimately broke it. I guess I have some masochistic tendencies because I went back to this book over and over again. And every time I had a reaction just as intense (if not more so) than the previous time.

I don’t know when it happened-maybe it was the very first page or maybe it was somewhere further along the book- but a part of my heart was relinquished to Taylor. I think these two quotes do a brilliant job of describing what Taylor wants:

“I crave history. I crave someone knowing me so well that they can tell what I’m thinking.”

“‘What do you want from me?’ he asks. What I want from every person in my life, I want to tell him. More.”

Taylor is abandoned over and over again. First by her mother at a petrol pump and then by her closest confident and mentor, Hannah in her very own backyard. When they leave she becomes closed off and cynical. She becomes depressed and even slightly suicidal. She’s nowhere near perfect but maybe that was part of the draw. The pain is often overdone in YA and maybe it was here too. But her pain was so honest and raw, it actually hurt me.

Fear not! Taylor did not spend this book as a mourning and abandoned vegetable (Yes Bella, I’m looking at you). Taylor had a strong support system and she- I wouldn’t say she got over it- but she functioned admirably; she lead her school in the ‘war’, was an admirable house leader and made a bunch of hilarious quips. By the time I was done with the book, I was attached to her like…like a suction cup on glass.

Ben, Anson Choi, Raffaela, Santiago, Jenna. They form the support system and they were just so witty and profound and multi-dimensional, I kind of fell in love with them. The unnamed girl with the eyebrow piercing deserves a special mention too.

Romance: 5/5

Jonah Griggs is bad. Like killed-his-father bad (don’t worry it was self-defence) He’s as disciplined and tough as hell but he’s a softie (especially when it comes to Taylor). He’s intense without being melodramatic…and I’m doing a terrible job explaining him. The goodness of Jonah Griggs cannot be described in a paragraph. Let me just say that Jonah is not the kind of guy you let into your heart- no, he’s the kind of guy who just walks in without an invitation but with so much panache that you don’t mind.

Plotholes: 4.5/5

It took me a while to get into the rhythm of Melina Marchetta’s writing. I was a bit confused with the italic parts and how that story tied in with the rest of the story. But the story unfolds really nicely once you get into the flow of it.

Overall Review: 5/5

I’ve done a terrible job explaining this book but it’s not completely my fault. This book is a literary masterpiece and you should read it. Right now. In fact maybe you shouldn’t even have read the review cause I have the sinking suspicion that this is the type of book best enjoyed when you know nothing about it.

45 Pounds More or Less

Book:45 Pounds More or Less

Author/Authoress: K.A. Barson

Cover: 3/5

45 Pounds (More or Less)

This cover could never be called beautiful. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Being the shallow person that I am, I fully confess that this is the reason this beautiful book sat around on my goodreads recommendations shelf for more than a month before I got around to read it. There’s no apology I can make that’s good enough. But I’m sorry- a million times and more. The cover may not be pretty but it is meaningful. From the green dress at the top to Ann’s pudgy calves in the middle to her flip-flops at the bottom the cover symbolifies most of the important part of the books. And that’s why the cover gets the redeemable score of 3/5.

Plot:4/5

Here are the numbers of Ann Galardi’s life:
She is 16.
And a size 17.
Her perfect mother is a size 6.
Her Aunt Jackie is getting married in 10 weeks, and wants Ann to be her bridesmaid.
So Ann makes up her mind: Time to lose 45 pounds (more or less) in 2 1/2 months.
Welcome to the world of infomercial diet plans, wedding dance lessons,  embarrassing run-ins with the cutest guy Ann’s ever seen—-and some surprises about her NOT-so-perfect mother.
And there’s one more thing. It’s all about  feeling comfortable in your own skin-—no matter how you add it up!

This description is deceptively ordinary. One of those ‘you should be happy with who you are blah blah blah’ kind of book.  It’s not. I would describe it more as a ‘you can always strive to be a better person but weight shouldn’t be one of the factors you take into consideration’ kind of book. I haven’t read that many contemporary young-adult books but I can safely say that I enjoyed the plot. Loved it even.

Characters: 6/5

Yes you read that right! Six on five!  Where this book really shines is the characters. I have never met characters who are more realistic than the one’s in the book. They have their virtues and their flaws and they are never anything less than three-dimensional.

Ann is obese (at 185 pounds, she’s 47 pounds heavier than the prescribed upper limit for her range) . And she knows she is. She doesn’t shy away from the fact or whine that it’s not her fault. She doesn’t sidestep responsibility by saying that it’s her Mom’s fault for making amazingly tasty food (I’ve heard that excuse used in real life). She acknowledges the fact that her obesity is a direct result for eating too much and exercising too little. Ann’s no Katniss Everdeen but she’s still a book character I admire and respect for this reason solely. It takes a lot of courage to face the facts, sometimes and even more to change those facts. What I like most about this book is Ann’s reason for losing weight. She wants to be a healthier person, look better and be able to wear certain clothes- all for herself. She’s not changing herself for anybody else, she’s growing (or shrinking) herself into a healthier, happier person. But she has her moments where she doesn’t exactly… well, shine. There’s no way I can say that I understand what she went through. I don’t have anything close to her complicated family situation. But let me tell you what I could feel. I cringed for her when she got stuck in a dress in a dressing room and I felt outrage on her behalf when a customer at her workplace made a crude remark about her getting hungry and eating all the pretzels.  I felt annoyance on her behalf when her mom constantly berated her for her weight and her embarrassment when her (sort-of) best friend took a dig at her weight.

Ann’s Mother. Oh my god. She’s one complicated character. Picture perfect from the outside. Decidedly not from the inside. You can tell that she loves her kids and she tries doing what’s best for them but it’s not always really the best for them. Almost half of this book portrays her in a less than favourable light. The perfect mom whose a bit embarrassed about her daughter’s weight problem and is very  vocal about it. She’s not above guilt trips, buying swim-suits as ‘inducement’ or barking at her daughter whenever she eats something even mildly unhealthy. Worse, she calls herself fat (even though she’s a perfect size 6) making Ann wonder what exactly her mom thinks of her. Is it any wonder that Ann resents her and is frustrated with her?

Mike: The politicky step dad. Diplomatic and nice to a fault. But at the end we see that he’s definitely dad material.

Libby is the adorable four year old sister who observes much more than her mother and sister notices. My heart broke for her when I realized that she was developing an eating disorder just from watching her mother and sister obsess over their own weights. Her twin brother doesn’t do much to help either, constantly ribbing her and calling her fat but he’s just as adorable as she is.

Rayne(e) is the nice, pretty popular girl who just so happens to become the protagonist’s best friends. She sounds like a walking stereotype but I promise she’s not. She’s a bit naïve, unwilling to believe what her (old) friends can do and annoyingly relentless in persuading her new best-friend to try new things.  She sews her own  clothes (how cool is that?) and she helps a lot in mending her new best-friends sense of self-esteem and confidence.

Jackie and her ‘bride’: Jackie is Ann’s aunt. Funny, bold and totally in love with her fiancé, Jackie acts as the catalyst for Ann’s want to lose weight. Although we don’t see much of her in the book, Ann repeatedly tells us about her support.

Cassie’s the obligational friend that we’ve all had. The one who we used to think was cool but now we wonder ‘Were they different then or just did we never notice how mean they could be’ kind of friends that we’ve all had once or twice in our lives.

Courtney’s the rampaging, raging mean girl of this book. She lies, she cheats and she makes Ann feel frumpy and fat. She spikes Ann’s drink at her party (causing Ann to act unmistakeably weird in front of her crush) and she lets Ann take her fall for the missing food at work.

Regina… she shows up in only one scene of the book and I think I laughed non-stop throughout it. Passively aggressive describes her to a tee. She’s always finding fault with something but never saying it straight up, only implying that things could be better. We can see where Mike gets his incredible politic skills although I don’t think he would like the comparison too much.

Jackie and her ‘bride’: Jackie is Ann’s aunt. Funny, bold and totally in love with her fiancé, Jackie acts as the catalyst for Ann’s want to lose weight. Although we don’t see much of her in the book, Ann repeatedly tells us about her support.

Romance: 5/5

This book doesn’t revolve around romance and I’m glad. I’m just saying that the message in this book wouldn’t have been as strong if Ann had decided to change herself for a guy.

There’s not much I can say about the love interest. In fact I can not even remember his name. I just remember that he had dimples and was taller than most people and Ann had a majorly sweet crush on him. He’s the guy next door and that’s something rare in most YA books.

The romance in this book was the awkward, first-love sort of romance. Sweet but not overpoweringly so.

Plotholes: 5/5

Surprisingly there were no flaws in the logic. Nor were there any unhealthy messages conveyed. If it wasn’t so pure and real-sounding, I would say that it was preachy because of the message it conveyed: eat healthy; don’t try to fit into clothes, make clothes fit you.

Overall rating:5/5

If you read the entire review, I’m sure you’ll be unsurprised that I rated it five stars. Buy this book. Buy it in hardcover. You’ll be reading it over and over again.