reviews Jordan Sonnenblick's "Drums, Girls, & Dangerous Pie." An audio book CD of Sonnenblick's fiction tale is read by Joel Johnstone.
Type of Item (book, movie, CD): Audio Book CD (we also own it in hardcover fiction)
A good student and an overall decent kid, Steven Alper leads the life of a typical eighth-grade boy.
He’s an all-city drummer; he’s obsessed with music and girls; and he’s constantly bothered by his five-year-old brother Jeffrey, who recently ruined Steven’s lucky drumsticks while making some kind of disgusting concoction that the little twirp named “dangerous pie.”
But on top of all this, Steven’s also someone who wishes he could take back last year’s October 7th – the day five-year-old Jeffery was diagnosed with leukemia and the Alpers’ world turned upside down.
When Jeffery’s diagnosis shocks his family to its core, Steven learns a lot about life, love and himself as he fumbles his way through the remaining school-year, trying to deal with Jeffery’s condition mostly internally and through his private class-journal entries.
While his mom is really the rock of the family throughout the whole ordeal, taking Jeffery to his weekly chemo treatments and dealing with all the doctors and hospital stays, his dad withdraws and barely speaks to Steven or the rest of the family.
As a result of everything going on at home, Steven’s schoolwork begins to slip, but when a student and his teachers get involved, Steven learns that if he plans to pass eighth grade and spare his parents the disappointment and additional stress of his own failures, he’s not only going to have to buckle down and accept help from others, he’s going to need to be there for Jeffery, even if it means sacrificing some of his own wishes and dreams in the process.
The difficulties and emotional rollercoasters that Steven and his family face throughout the novel are completely believable, as are Steven’s own occasional selfish thoughts and moments of self-pity. He comes to life as a very real character – someone you can imagine as your own friend or neighbor. And through his ability to understand the importance of staying strong for both his parents and for Jeffery, combined with the fact that he changes and matures – learning to swallow his pride and give up some part of himself as he sacrifices one of his most longed-for opportunities – Steven’s depth of character really shines.
I love Joel Johnstone’s audio narration for this book because he makes Steven and his family and friends really come to life through his pacing, tone and narrative personality. One of my friend’s daughters (also age 5) was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma cancer in January 2011, and as I listened to this book and learned of the Alpers’ growing medical bills, the endless tests and needle pokes, and everything else that Jeffery, Steven and their family endured, I kept thinking about my friends and their little girl, so this novel kind of hit home.