Title: Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie
Author: Jordan Sonnenblick
Release Date: January 1, 2004
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Cover Designer: Marijka Kostiw
Age Audience: YA
Summary: Thirteen-year-old Steven has a totally normal life: he plays drums in the All-Star Jazz band, has a crush on the hottest girl in the school, and is constantly annoyed by his five-year-old brother, Jeffrey. But when Jeffrey is diagnosed with leukemia, Steven's world is turned upside down. He is forced to deal with his brother's illness and his parents' attempts to keep the family in one piece. Salted with humor and peppered with devastating realities, Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie is a heartwarming journey through a year in the life of a family in crisis.
I am not a fan of cancer-themed stories, especially fictional ones. I read this book for my book club, and probably would not have read it otherwise.
The characterization was not so great. Jeffrey was a little too sweet and well-behaved, especially for a kid so ill. Some of the things he said seemed unlikely to come from a five-year-old.
Steven…I’m not sure if I liked Steven or not. He pitied himself too much, and I wasn’t impressed by his sarcastic sense of humor. Yes, I love dry, witty humor. But I love dry, witty, intelligent humor even more. And his humor was anything but intelligent. Actually, there was a lot less humor in this book than I thought there would be, judging from the title.
After I started reading this book, I was surprised that “Dangerous Pie” was in the title. Dangerous Pie only makes one appearance in the book. In the first chapter. It’s never really mentioned again, and it’s not integral to the plot. But that’s just one way of looking at it. You could also say that Dangerous Pie in the title represents the hardships Steven went through because of Jeffery, rather than Dangerous Pie itself.
Jeffery’s cancer almost seemed staged. I’ve read cancer stories in Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul that weren’t this melodramatic. And I don’t believe that “my brother has cancer” would be a good enough reason for Steven to miss months of homework with no consequence except makeup work if this were real life. Also, why did Steven start crying nearly every time he talked about the cancer? I know that it would be a traumatic experience, but I don’t believe that a real teenage boy would cry that much and that often.
The ending surprised me. For some reason, I expected Jeffrey to die at the end. I’m not going to give away spoilers, but it still wasn’t happily ever after (okay, maybe it was).
I give this book 3 stars instead of 2.5 because I actually enjoyed reading it, and it only took me a few hours. But I don’t think I’ll be reading similar books anytime soon. Between Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie and Where She Went, I’ve had my fill of emotional books for this year.