Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick

Synopsis: Steven Alper's life is not too bad, although he does describe his younger brother Jeffrey as the "most annoying thing in the world". He's an average student, who plays the drums, tells his friends jokes, and (of course) has a crush on the 'hottest girl in the eighth grade." Dealing with the difficulty of a younger sibling described as having "little blonde ringlets like the ones on the angels on the posters you see in art class" who uses your things without asking and constantly follows you around also ranks pretty high on the normalcy scale. However, everything changes for Steven (and Jeffrey) when this perfect cherub gets diagnosed with leukemia. The resulting upheaval in the Alper family includes Steven being banished to his grandparents across town for a week, an action figure named Matt Medic, and a whole group of bald jazz musicians. In much the way that cancer extends its tendrils of disease throughout his body, Jeffrey's illness extends beyond the Alper family and into the community.

Mrs. Boman says: Jordan's Sonnenblick's debut novel is a vividly rendered look at the world of a 13-year old boy turned upside down by illness and all it's attendant family struggles. Rather then becoming sickeningly sweet and mouthing platitudes about how everything will be all right, Sonneblick's protagonist Steven reacts as any teenage boy would: with anger, apathy(mostly toward his homework), depression and frustration. The adults in his world are also real people, even his guidance counselor and the hilarious Miss Palma (his English teacher-who says things like "What are you thinking about creating here?") While Palma skirts caricature, Mrs. Galley, the guidance counselor is refreshingly honest while offering Steven solid advice from which I think even some adults I know could benefit. ("Instead of agonizing about the things you can't change, why don't you try working on the things you CAN change?" Steven's repsonse to that comment "Over the next few days, my head was a jumble of battling quote bubbles. ME: What's the point of...? MRS.GALLEY: Why don't you try working on the things you CAN change?" ) I wanted to scream: SHE'S RIGHT! Why don't you try it! (Always a good sign when I want to start cussing out a character in a book!)

I read this book after I read Notes from a Midnight Driverand Steven was so real to me that it took me almost to the end of the book to remember that Steve and Annette actually show up in Notes as seniors and play a 'benefit' concert that was a natural outgrowth of the concert in Drums. I can see English teacher's using these two books together. Over-all, I liked Notes a little better than Drums so I'm going to have to give Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie

9 stars