Let me start by saying that this is the first Jordan Sonnenblick book I’ve read, It will NOT be the last. In fact, I’m reading another one right now titled After Ever After. Back to the point–I have not read many middle grade novels because I teach high school and figured I should keep with the age range of my students. I was wrong. SO wrong. This book is funny, heart-breaking, and just plain beautiful whether you are ten or thirty…something (like me).
The book starts off with Steven at his middle school graduation, but then he reflects back to a journal entry he wrote early in the school year. His teacher asked the class to write about what they thought was the most annoying. Naturally, Steven wrote about his relationship with his little brother, Jeffrey.
Jeffrey is five, so of course he gets into stuff he shouldn’t, messes up things he doesn’t mean to, and uses Stevens special sticks to mix his dangerous pie (love this part). But all of that pales in comparison to what happens in October. An unusually bad nose bleed due to a moatmeal incident lands Jeffrey in the ER where ends up being diagnosed with leukemia. As an eighth grader, Steven thought his biggest worries were drum practice, his crush on Renee Albert, and protecting his stuff from his little brother, but Jeffrey’s diagnosis turns the whole family upside down.
Sonnenblick, a former eighth grade English teacher, perfectly crafts each family member’s reaction to Jeffrey’s diagnosis and treatment with heart-breaking clarity sprinkled with bits of relieving humor. His understanding of the middle school adolescent is spot on. The transformation that Steven undergoes, from his initial denial of Jeffrey’s illness to his selfish reactions to finally seeing his family members as individuals rather than orbiters in his world, is what brings him to the culminating point at his eight grade graduation. Above all, Sonnenblick has crafted a beautiful story that I will not soon forget.
Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie was Jordan Sonnenblick’s debut back in 2004, and if you still have doubts about whether or not you will like this book, take Sonnenblick’s word for it. “This is my first book. My mom says it is good. Please feel free to buy it. And read it, too.” Check out his website and blog where you can find out about his other seven books.
*Currently reading After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick