Friday, April 30, 2021

Middle-Grade/Teen Review: Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie

I was looking for a short book to read while I waited for my next book group selection to come in from the library. I have a stuffed shelf of middle-grade and YA books for review--many of them years old!--and I chose Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick. I was completely blown away by this powerful, funny, moving narrative.

Thirteen-year-old Steven does pretty well in school, but his passion is playing the drums. He's good enough at it that he's one of only two eighth-graders in the All-City High School Jazz Band, along with Annette, who is an excellent piano player. Steven's had a massive crush on a girl named Renee since third grade, but she doesn't even know he exists. And he has an adorable but annoying little brother named Jeffrey. Steven's ordinary middle-grade life is turned upside down that fall when they find out that Jeffrey has cancer and is very sick. His mom spends all her time by Jeffrey's side in hospitals, his dad becomes mute and won't even look Steven in the eye, and Steven feels all alone with this huge, horrible thing that's happening. He feels like he is sleep-walking through his life now, and the only place where he can really be honest and open up is in his confidential journal that he keeps for English class. Through that long, horrible year, Steven and his family find a way to move forward, with the help of friends, classmates, and the drums.

I know what you're thinking: "A book about childhood cancer? How depressing!" And, of course, this is a sad story; I cried several times while reading it (including some happy tears toward the later pages). What you don't expect, though, is that this novel is also very, very funny, and I was often laughing out loud while reading it. It is ultimately a very honest and uplifting story about a family that learns to come together and lean on each other and some wonderful friends and community who help to support them. I cried again while reading the Afterword, where the author explains the inspiration for the novel (a student of his) and his process of writing it. This outstanding, beautifully written novel took me on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, and I loved every moment. I can't wait to read more from Sonnenblick (including this book's sequel).

273 pages, Scholastic Press

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.


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  1. This sounds like a novel that is accurate, even when things are horrible, there are moments of love and levity, which we cannot and should not ignore.

    1. Yes, exactly! The author strikes that balance perfectly.