Sunday, June 25, 2006

Music Therapy

Jordan Sonnenblick pulled the old bait and switch on me last night. I began his book
Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie and was delighted by the wry, 14-year old voice of Steven Alper as he negotiates his way through the minefields of his last year in junior high. His devotion to music (specifically drumming) and his endearing/exasperating relationship with his much younger brother Jeffy had me completely hooked. And then, much as it happens for Steven himself, the switch from Charming Family Tale to Brave Child With Leukemia Tale laid me out cold.

Now to be fair, the book morphs well into its new guise and continues to be well-told and well-handled. I am not a huge fan of the dealing with illness genre, but Sonnenblick portrays the family's strengths and struggles evenly and with compassion. I continued to admire Steven's character - the same junior high minefields are still in his daily path and he works to juggle it all in a believable and heart-wrenching way.

The secondary characters are also well-drawn - particularly Annette, the girl we all know Steven should end up with - and of course young Jeffy with his precocious descriptions of his horrific cancer treatments and of Steven's imagined love life. The grand concert at the end of the book pushes the story over into Extreme Makeover: Home Edition territory, as does the inevitable death of the waiflike and tragic teen girl in the hospital, but I stuck with it and came away glad I'd picked up the book. I'd like to see what the author can do with a less tragic plotline sometime....

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