Piper, a deaf high school senior who leads the chess team, gets good grades, and generally stays invisible, is a pretty unlikely choice to manage a rock band. But when she mouths off to the cocky lead singer of Dumb about how they could make some money if they’d quit living up to their name, that’s exactly what they hire her to do. Dumb just won Seattle’s Teen Battle of the Bands, but most of the battles are between the band members. Piper has her work cut out for her.
I adored this book. Piper is a funny, flawed, endearing narrator. No major character is quite what you — or Piper — expect at the beginning; the author doesn’t let us off with easy stereotypes. Money and disability are dealt with honestly, and the casting is smoothly color-blind, so it never feels like an issue (the beautiful popular girl is biracial African-American and white; Piper’s love interest’s last name is Chen). I particularly loved the growing relationship between Piper and her brother Finn, which made me miss my own younger brother. Some of the worshiping of the Seattle music scene (Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix) came off a bit heavy-handed, but then I was exactly the right age to get all sniffly about Kurt and I never did, so maybe the tone will feel just right to grunge fans.
I appreciated how the story handles cochlear implants, a hugely controversial subject within the deaf community. Piper’s parents chose to give her baby sister Grace implants, and at first Piper is furious — because they raided her college fund to do it, but also because she feels her parents are implying that she isn’t good enough. Why wouldn’t they want her sister to be deaf like her? Piper wants a deaf sister to bond with, which is really about Piper, not about what’s best for Grace. By the end she’s come to terms with her parents’ decision, without necessarily changing her mind about implants philosophically. I’m not informed enough to take a stand on this issue myself, but I thought the arc was realistic for the character.
All in all, a delightful book. I miss the characters already. Maybe Piper should, I don’t know, manage a poetry slam venue when she gets to Gallaudet?