Drums, Girls + Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick centers around Steven, an eighth-grade drummer, whose younger brother has cancer. Inspired by a past student of his, Sonnenblick set out to write a cancer story that would accurately portray the lives of families with family members who have cancer, particularly the relationship between siblings in that situation. After reading the book, I would say he was successful in writing a story about cancer that not only let me glimpse into the lives these families may have, but also made me laugh despite the heavy subject matter, and further developed my knowledge on the importance of mental health.
Throughout the story, readers can see how Steven deals with middle school, drumming, mental health, and his brother’s cancer treatment, as well as how the people around him help him. The aspect of Steven I loved the most was his humor. He was very sarcastic and the majority of the humor of the book came from his light sarcasm. Despite the tough situation, he was able to bring some light to it for his family, especially for Jeffrey, who definitely needed something to laugh about as he was only five years old. Steven even used his sarcastic humor around his friends before he told them about his family’s new situation.
Besides Steven’s humor, I loved seeing his journey with mental health. While at first he kept his feelings about his brother’s cancer diagnosis bottled up, it was nice to see him eventually trust people with his feelings about the difficulties of being a sibling of a cancer patient. I personally felt that it was very realistic for Sonnenblick to not have Steven trust people right away, since I can also be reluctant to tell people when I’m having a hard time. I liked that everyone was willing to support Steven once they realized he was struggling.
His relationship with the school counselor was one of my favorites to see develop. At first he was hesitant to tell the counselor anything, but he soon trusted the counselor with anything that was troubling him. With that gain of trust he was able to receive the help he needed. His counselor definitely gave Steven wonderful advice on how to cope with a difficult situation that anyone could use. My favorite advice that his counselor gave him was that while he can’t control everything, such as the fact that his brother has cancer, he should focus on what he can control. That piece of advice definitely helped Steven stress out less about what he couldn’t control and I feel that anyone could benefit from focusing on what they can control, to stress out less.
Of course, the main relationship that the story focused on was that of Steven and Jeffrey. While they did have an eight-year age difference (something that bothered Steven in the beginning of the story), they still managed to have a strong, loving relationship. When people were being sad or concerned around Jeffrey, Steven would make sure to keep Jeffrey’s spirits up so other people’s negative energy wouldn’t bring the five-year-old down. Not only that but Steven made sure Jeffrey didn’t feel like an outcast because of his condition. The work Steven put into making sure Jeffrey was happy and could have a happy childhood was admirable.
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a story with a heavy subject matter that isn’t as sad as other options. People will definitely learn something about the obstacles that families have, and how they persevere when a relative has cancer —while also having some good laughs.
Julissa is a student at Eleanor Roosevelt High School.