As an English teacher, nothing makes me happier than seeing my students really connect with and enjoy a book that I’ve forced upon them. This book, Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, is one of the few books I’ve ever taught that literally EVERY student liked. Unfortunately, I’ve switched grade levels and don’t get to teach this book anymore, but I still recommend it. Constantly and quite forcefully.
Jordan Sonnenblick has a way of storytelling in this book that can have you laughing through tears, putting yourself into situations you hope you’ll never have to face, but that you’re happy to accompany his characters through. In it, we follow Steven through the journey of his eighth grade year. He’s a skinny dork with glasses and braces, a hopeless crush on the hottest girl in school, a total band geek, and a little brother that ends up turning his whole world around. While this book does have a main character with cancer, it’s not a book about cancer. It’s about growing up and going through crap that makes you better for having lived through it.
The fact that this is Sonnenblick’s first novel is amazing to me. I’ve read most of his other books, which are good too… but not quite as magical as this one is. The companion/follow-up to this, Notes From The Midnight Driver, is a close second though. Just the first chapter had me laughing out loud (I guess the death of porcelain lawn gnomes will always be funny).
If you haven’t read any Sonnenblick, you should. And you should start with Drums. This is literally one of the best books I’ve ever read. Enjoy!
Side note to English Teachers: Don’t let the fact that this is modern YA keep you from teaching this book – not everything has to be old to be good. There’s a ton of rich text in this that make it VERY appropriate to teach in a 7th/8th grade classroom, and also a lot of interesting author’s craft stuff (like his unique way of handling dialogue that switches at the very end of the book) that goes right along with Common Core Standards. It’s all kinds of awesome.