Drums, Girls, & Dangerous Pie (referred to as simply Drums from here on) actually surprised me. The book was handed to me by my brother; at his request, my mom told me I had to read it. On one hand, I really didn’t want to read it since Zach’s tastes in books usually are quite childish (i.e. Diary of a Wimpy Kid), not to mention the fact that the title didn’t look very appealing. Nonetheless, I started to reluctantly read the book. Before long, I realized that I was truly enjoying my time with Drums, and it was very good in nearly every way. Although Drums was written to target a middle-school audience, it was able to capture my attention (and I’m a junior) while being both funny and serious at the same time.
Drums tells the story of eighth-grader Steven and his five-year-old brother, Jeffrey. Steven is an up-and-coming drummer at his school, and he’s an honor roll student. His dad is an accountant, and his mom works at a nearby school. Everything seems to be going very smoothly in everyone’s lives… but that’s when Jeffrey is diagnosed with cancer. Bet you didn’t see that coming, did you? Well, neither did I.
To be more specific, Jeffrey is diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. This means that some of his white blood cells deform and multiply rapidly, choking out the properly formed white blood cells, which don’t multiply as quickly. Even worse, the leukemia reduces the number of platelets in Jeffrey’s blood, which means that it won’t clot as quickly as it should. He will bruise easier, and even small cuts could be deadly. Basically, this is a life-changing scenario for the family.
From there, things go downhill. Steven and Jeffrey’s mom has to quit working to take Jeffrey to the hospital so often, and their dad becomes a shell of his former self; he turns into an emotionless workaholic because of the stress. Meanwhile, Steven’s grades suffer, he worries about his brother, and wonders how his family will pay the bills. Things keep spiraling downward until his school counselor takes note and helps him through the situation. She presents him with a novel idea: rather than worrying about the things you can’t change, focus on changing the things you can.
From there, Steven’s outlook improves; he strives to practice drumming more for the All-City concert coming up, he improves his grades again, he takes better care of his brother, and does what he can to save his family a few bucks here and there. Then, the big moment in the book comes when they All-City Band decides to turn the concert into a benefit event for Jeffrey; the story then comes full circle as Steven learns the value and importance of making a difference. He learns that through little things, he can change lives for the better, even in tough times. He also learns the value of life, as the prospect of his brother’s death looms at any given moment.
Overall, this story is touching. Truly, it is. Because five-year-old Jeffrey is so innocent, it’s odd to think of him as a cancer patient who could die if he catches a bad fever. The story is pretty serious, it tackles heavy subjects, and it’s downright depressing at times. I hadn’t expected this from a pre-teen book, but the author (Jordan Sonnenblick) really uses his talent to drive home these important lessons with an engaging style.
Throughout the tragedies of Drums, Sonnenblick somehow manages to put a positive spin on things through the words and actions of Steven, the narrator. Steven has a sarcastic, almost snarky way about him at times. He’s not necessarily rude; he simply tries to put a comedic, light-hearted tone over a dark situation. Through this approach, Sonnenblick can really tackle those dark situations without making the overall tone of the book so deep and depressing.
In the end, Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie is a book that any middle or high-schooler should read. It drives home the importance of being a positive influence, and it causes one to contemplate the value of life. More than once I caught myself thinking about how blessed I am to be in my current position in life. This is the sort of book that makes you really glad to be alive; to have the chance to make a difference. Don’t let this book fly under your radar; check it out.
Thanks For Reading