Written by Divija Vaish, a grade 12 student
Jordan Sonnenblick’s debut novel, ‘Drums, Girls + Dangerous Pie’, published first in 2004, is a 273-page journey that never disappoints, no matter how many times one decides to embark on it. It is the story of 8th-grade drum prodigy, Steven Alper, and the events that follow the horrific day of October 7th.
Steven is a regular 13 year old (he has crushes on girls like Renee Albert, loves listening to music, finds his parents too intrusive, you know), except he’s part of the All-City Band because he’s really really good at playing drums, his one true passion. He has a younger brother, Jeffrey, who is also a regular 5 year old (cute, blabs too much, makes a mess of everything, irritates his brother to no end but also idolises him to no end), except one day he is diagnosed with leukemia. Suddenly, Steven’s world seems to have flipped a switch and nothing is the same anymore. He loses his interest in everything but drumming, but nobody seems to notice except Annette Watson, a piano prodigy in his class who is also on the All-City Band with him. Everyone seems to be far too caught up in other things to notice that a ‘skinny little geek’ is slowly slipping, his grades are falling, and his life is spiralling. Including his parents, who are caught up with Jeffrey and are running out of money to pay for his chemotherapy and treatment. In short, Steven’s dad doesn’t talk to him much anymore, his mom is never at home, he is failing in all his classes, he blew his one shot at hanging out with Renee Albert, his family has no money and his brother might die.
As a debut novelist, Sonnenblick has done a truly remarkable job by writing a story about cancer that isn’t, per se, a sad or tragic story but rather a funny, heart-warming, and most importantly, a genuine one. In my opinion, this book is a must-read because not only is it an excellent example of how to educate little children on sensitive topics like cancer and death, it also possesses the quality of being so realistic, which is extremely rare in fictional books that deal with cancer. We travel with Steven through this beautiful story as he wishes for ‘Dangerous Pie’, eats candy hearts from his guidance counselor, meets Samantha, becomes the ‘Peasant’, and sticks by his little brother who asks Steven to “Keep me brave. Please? Just keep me brave.”
‘Drum, Girls + Dangerous Pie’ is followed by the sequel, ‘After Ever After’.
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