on August 25, 2009
I love this book. Sonnenblick tells a heartbreaking story, so heartfelt, with ease and humor that you must fall in love with the hero and everybody around him. The hero, Steven a normal teenager with a big passion and talent for drums basically thinks of his drum playing and the hottest girl in his class, who doesn't care about him. His world turns upside down when his little brother Jeffry gets cancer. First, Steven, whose parents give most of their attention to Jeffry now, dives into self pity. But very soon discovers that his brother needs him and taking care about his brother and family brings a new possibility in Steven's life. In the face of all possible Drama he discovers a sense of humour, well-being and the magic life has.
This is what I love most about the book, Sonnenblick is showing a way to have magic in our lives, even when the circumstances are challenging. And the story is just breathtaking, you won't want to stop reading.
2 other books I highly recommend to everyone who is looking for more magic in their life, whether your life is already good or you face some challenges of your own are: "Being Here: Modern Day Tales of Enlightenment" and "Working on Yourself Doesn't Work: The 3 Simple Ideas That Will Instantaneously Transform Your Life" by Ariel and Shya Kane. The authors found a way of living and share it in their books, that opens possibilities to have a fulfilling and magical live regardless of the circumstances you live in. Both books are written so heartfelt and with humor it's treat to read, also they are very practical and useful in day to day life.
on October 21, 2005
DRUMS, GIRLS & DANGEROUS PIE starts out breezily enough. Told in the sarcasm-laced voice of 13-year-old Steven, the novel describes his various adolescent trials and tribulations, all of which are familiar yet still cringe-worthy --- he has a crush on the hottest girl in school, has an angelic-looking yet demonic little brother named Jeffrey, and his parents irk and annoy him constantly. With a droll and ironic tone, teacher and first-time novelist Jordan Sonnenblick paints Steven both convincingly and with enough color to make him an amusing and compelling narrator. Readers will be ready and willing to let Steven narrate the woes of adolescence for 273 pages, without expecting anything more or less from the novel.
Steven's story takes a sharp turn, however, into potentially over-dramatic emotional ground when Jeffrey's nosebleeds turn out to be an indicator of something serious. Yet Sonnenblick handles Steven and his family's reactions to Jeffrey's diagnosis and the onslaught of his illness with an admirable balance of humor and compassion. Jeffrey's initial question to his mother after they return from the hospital in Philadelphia is, "So Mom, everything's OK right? This whole cancer mistake is sorted out?" And Sonnenblick's treatment of the different reactions of Jeffrey's parents --- Steven describes his mother as "weepy" and his father as "a zombie" --- is both nuanced and realistic. Steven has to break his parents' emotional states into simple, one-word summations, because he fears grappling with the extent of what they're going through and why; by acknowledging the complexity of their anguish, he must acknowledge the fact that his brother might die.
It takes a while for Steven to come to terms with Jeffrey's illness, and the process is rendered thoughtfully and without cliché. Reflections such as "Once I was forced to believe that Jeffrey really had cancer my mind played another big trick on me. I started to think that if I just made the right promises to God. He would magically make Jeffrey better again" and Steven's frustration with teachers who call him a "trooper" are perfect examples of the little details that make this novel so honest and real. Steven's attempt to get a handle on all the anxieties that surround the progression of his brother's illness, while trying to balance school dances, drumming solos and head-over-heels-crushes, is handled with equal candor.
Steven is not the only remarkably credible character; his parents, his teachers, his brother and even his crush, Renee, are all well-drawn and believable. The fact that this novel never relies on formulaic plotlines or stock characters is no doubt due to the author's own experience with having a family member diagnosed with cancer. Sonnenblick has an obvious desire to present the potentially melodramatic and sappy subject of cancer with frankness, never shying away from conveying the uncomfortable realities of living with someone who is sick. The result is this honest, engaging, never syrupy, and rather groundbreaking novel.
Readers who have never gone through what Steven is going through will have a newfound understanding of what it is like to --- very literally --- battle someone else's cancer. Those who have will be grateful to Sonnenblick for getting it so right.
--- Reviewed by Jennifer Krieger
on May 7, 2009
You know those books you don't want to take out of your hands and you search for words to describe what you liked about it...Well this is one of them. This book, written from the point of view of a thirteen year old boy, who sees himself confronted with the fact that his five year old brother has cancer. It's straightforward, with no exaggeration. A work, full of wisdom that shows how we much too often think about things we can't change instead of seeing what we can.
Another book that opens the door to seeing other possibilities one can choose in life isWorking on Yourself Doesn't Work: The 3 Simple Ideas That Will Instantaneously Transform Your Life
Give yourself the gift of both these books!
on October 20, 2005
I picked this book up yesterday, read the inside flap about the author being a middle school English teacher and was sold. I hadn't read the other flap, the one at the front that gives a summary of the book, so I was truly surprised while reading. I started reading after I put the kids down and couldn't stop-read it in one sitting it was THAT compelling.
Sonnenblick manages to create Steven Alper, an eighth grade boy who is thrown into the utter despair of dealing with his brother's Leukemia. But what's so fresh about it is that Steven is still forced to face the trials and turbulence of teen-hood despite the fact that his family life as he knows it has taken a turn for the worst. Steven's dimensional thoughts run the true gamut, from grief to illusions of grandeur.
I think what's so important about this book (speaking as a former eighth grade English teacher) is that although it appeals to teens and adults alike, it is a perfect read for a middle schooler. Sonnenblick obviously listens to his students, is keyed in to what makes a middle schooler different from a high schooler. He knows the voice and in Steven has created a character that embodies the thoughts and mixed emotions of a boy who is teetering between boyhood and young adulthood-in Steven you see the true metamorphosis.
I would be remiss not to mention the music in this book. Steven's life-line and main coping mechanism is his involvement with his drums. Sonnenblick provides the reader with a virtual soundtrack. One can hear Steven at his drum pad and drum set and catch the beat of the bass drum and the ding of the cymbals. I couldn't help but think it nothing shy of brilliant for Sonnenblick to plant mentors like Dizzi Gillespie and Dave Brubeck in his book as parallels to Steven himself. Even if he struggles to stay afloat, Steven becomes the music, the beat, the mentor to his ill brother Jeffrey and you get the feeling that without Steven, Jeffrey, at five-years-old, wouldn't have the will to move forward.
The writing is vivid as are the feelings conveyed. Lots of tears and laughs in this one. A great read.
on July 29, 2016
I just adore Steven, he is truly a courageous character. He just seemed so real to me that his life situation really grabbed at my heartstrings. And... little bro, Jeffrey, you just want to squeeze the kid. I cannot wait for the sequel to be delivered in the mail!!
on July 2, 2015
I had the opportunity to hear Jordan Sonnenblick speak to a group of middle school students last week when I was substitute teaching. I had already read After Ever After, the sequel to the book Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie, but had not read anything else he had written. I was impressed by what Jordan shared with the kids. He used to be an 8th grade English teacher and he knows how to talk to middle school kids. He told the story behind the book Drums, Girls, & Dangerous Pie, which was very interesting and I decided to read this book.
This book is about an 8th grade boy whose 4 year old brother gets Leukemia and how that affects him and his family. Jordan wrote this book because when he was teaching 8th grade, he had a student whose younger brother had cancer and he looked for a book for her about a middle school student with a sibling who had cancer and he could not find any. The book tells how when Jordan's brother was diagnosed with cancer, it threw his family into crisis mode, he stopped doing schoolwork, played the drums more, and how his parents and family life were affected. He did a good job of telling the story and I think that this book can help middle school kids to understand how cancer can affect a family. It is also just a really good story.
I enjoyed this book and it's sequel and look forward to reading his other books.
Mr. Sonnenblick's newest book, Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip , is coming out on March 1 of this year and he says that if people pre-order it, he can be on the New York Times Best Seller List and his mother will be proud of him.
on June 30, 2016
This book is a required reading for school for my son. As soon as the book arrived, I decided to read it first, so I can make sure my son actually reads it. So far the book is holding his attention. Its storyline is heartbreaking but it will have you amazed. The hero Steven is a normal teenager whose world is turned upside down. He loves playing the drums. Now you will just have to read the book to see what happens. This is an excellent book to read. It a great book for a boy or girl to read. We truly enjoyed the book.
on July 17, 2016
I really enjoyed this one and can't wait for my older kids to read it. I think this is one all teenage kids should read. I hard a hard time wanting to put it down. I will admit that I kept picking up other books avoiding it because I wasn't quite sure what to think about it. I finally picked it up and thought to myself "Why did I wait to read this one?" This is one of the 16 books for Battle of the Books(BOB) where I live and I try to read what my kids are reading for the competitions. At state competition for 2015-2016 school year they were playing a book trailer for this and I wasn't sure what was being said because we were in a small auditorium and too many excited participants. One of our OBOB coaches said she loved it but recommended having tissues handy.
I really wish that I could share this book with everyone. It was a "real" read. My oldest daughter kept saying, right before I read this book, that she wished someone would write a "real" book. She went on to explain that her sort of real book would include day to day aspects of life. A few pages into this book I had to laugh because there was a scene which included a sentence that summed up what my daughter was saying, and I found it to be that "real" feel throughout the book.
This is not a lighthearted funny and happy ever after read, it's emotional, funny and yet it touches you and doesn't leave you after finishing it. I was choked up several times throughout. If you haven't read the premise, it is about a middle school boy named Steven who is coming of age and just being a middle school boy. Yet his world comes crashing down around him and he is left picking up the pieces. Yet throughout his changing world, he's upbeat and funny and moving forward in his own way. I laughed out loud several times at Steven's character. He was "real". He broke down, he was numb to it all at times, he was funny, he was learning that adults aren't perfect, he was learning that life is fragile. I loved it all. I ached through most of it.
Jeffrey is Steven's younger brother. He is in kindergarten and ends up being a "very sick little boy". I don't want to ruin it but what I want to talk about references a lot about what happens in the book, so if you don't want to know don't read on. I won't be super specific but just some personal thoughts but beware I will say a little bit about Jeffrey that is left a mystery in the first part of the book so don't read on if you don't want to know that. If you don't mind...keep reading.
While reading this I couldn't help but think about some friends I used to live by. They had a first grade aged daughter who had leukemia and was in treatment. I didn't personally know them during the battle with leukemia but became good friends with them afterwards. I knew of their struggles and sorrows and joys through a mutual friend who happened to live next door and who's son was the same age as the little girl. Madelyn ended up passing away after a long battle. Her younger brother was the same age as my youngest at the time. He loved my daughters because they were the same age as his sister and he was always sharing his memories of her with us and bringing his picture book to show us. I had a small glimpse into what they experienced yet this book had me aching even more for their time spent helping their beautiful daughter. So many aspects that aren't thought about were talked about in this book.
This edition that I read had a followup from the author. He talked about his inspiration for the story. He is a teacher and had a student who's brother ended up with cancer. I read this part out loud to my mom and daughters and we sat there crying through the author's explanation. It was beautiful and very touching. The author wrote it because there were no books out there about this subject so he wrote it. The mother of this little boy said that they received the book and their whole family read it within a day, they cried, they laughed but most of all what touched me was that she said they all felt like the teacher had taken a video recorder and followed them around during those months in their lives.
I hope I'm not raising anyone's expectations in this book. I just wanted to share what touched me personally and some of the memories that came to mind while reading it. It is achingly real and amazing. I want to read the sequel After Ever After.
I borrowed a copy from my local library.
on December 14, 2015
I loved the book. Stories about kids with cancer beak my heart and this one as no exception. But it also had moments of joy and moments of praise for Steven. I would recommend the book to anyone looking for a heart touching story.
on January 17, 2007
"The most annoying thing in the world is...My little brother, Jeffrey." That's what 13-year-old Steven Alper had written in his journal for his English class. But on October 7th, everything changed. Jeffrey had a small accident in the kitchen, was taken to the emergency room, and was diagnosed with leukemia.
Steven's life turns upside down, and just when he needs his parents the most, his mom has to spend most of her days at the hospital taking care of his brother, and his dad is mostly keeping to himself, too worried about the bills to spend time with or even talk to his oldest son. Steven wants to believe that everything will just go back to normal, and tries to release his anger, anxiety, and fears by playing the drums. But his brother doesn't seem to be getting any better, and Steven has a hard time concentrating at school, he's not turning in his homework, and his grades are starting to fall behind. To make things worse, he doesn't want anyone to find out what is going on--but somehow his best friend, Annette, the school counselor, and even Renee Albert, the hottest girl in the eighth grade, all seem to know that something is not right.
This unforgettable novel took me on an incredibly moving ride. And when I felt I was all the way down on this emotional roller coaster, and found myself struggling to see the words through my tears, Sonnenblick lifted me up gently, word by word, page by page, and put a grin on my face that eventually turned into a big smile and then an out-loud laugh. The author's great voice shows real characters with real feelings, and the true struggle of a teenager trying to understand the unfairness of a deadly disease, and how to cope with the fear of losing his beloved little brother.
So you think your little brother is a pest? You will think again after reading this touching story.
Tissues are highly recommended.
The paperback edition of DRUMS, GIRLS, & DANGEROUS PIE also includes a section with an interview, information about the author, tips on writing, and a preview of Jordan Sonnenblick's next novel, Notes From The Midnight Driver.
Reviewed by: Christian C.