Sat 10 Sep 2011
Glee cheerleader Brittany Pierce may be best known for not being the brightest bulb in the choir room.
But that’s not why I’d give her Antony John’s new book Five Flavors of Dumb (Dial, 2010) if I were a librarian at William McKinley High.
I’d give it to her because there’s more to Brittany than initially meets the eye.
Sure, Brittany can be a bit dim. She’s known for comments that make the rest of the Glee Club do a double take like, “Did you know dolphins are just gay sharks?”
She struggles knowing her left from her right, is pleased when she can sound out the word “L-O-V-E” written on the choir room white board, and she still believes in Santa Claus. She even proudly wears a T-shirt reading, “I’m with stoopid” featuring an arrow pointing toward her face.
But Brittany, who’s played by the multi-talented Heather Morris, can also be one of the wisest characters on the show. She alone can call Santana Lopez out when she’s hiding her true self behind a wall of false bravado. She stands up to Sue Sylvester when Sue wants to shoot her out of a cannon — leading Quinn and Santana to do the same — and she showcased her uncommon knowledge of cat diseases to help the Brainiac academic decathalon team win an important match.
Perhaps most importantly, she’s not ashamed of who she is.
Of all the Glee characters, Brittany is, oddly enough, one of the most secure. She doesn’t seem bothered by the perception that she’s dumb and she seems to be quite good at standing up for what she wants, whether it’s refusing Artie’s prom proposal because he called her stupid, telling Santana off for hiding her true self by pretending to date Karofsky or starting a fashion trend by wearing leg warmers on her arms. She’s not hiding a deep secret, and she’s not ashamed of who she is. What you see is usually what you get.
That’s why she reminds me of Piper, this book’s main character.
Like Brittany, Piper has a challenge that seems obvious. She’s deaf. But Piper doesn’t let that define her. She succeeds in regular high school classes thanks to her excellent lip-reading skills, her ability to speak, a pair of hot-pink hearing aids and a refusal to give up. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she’s very smart.
Unlike Brittany, Piper doesn’t have many friends. There’s Ed Chen from the chess club. And then there’s her brother, Finn, who alternately annoys her and helps her. In fact, Piper is counting down the days in her senior year until she can graduate and attend Galludet University a college for deaf and hearing-impaired students where everyone knows sign language.
But Piper’s life takes an unexpected turn when she sees a band called Dumb perform on school grounds. She can’t hear the music, but she’s drawn to its energy. And when she gets into an argument with the self-satisfied lead singer about how the band should market itself, she finds herself facing a challenge — get the band a paying gig in a month.
No one thinks she can do it.
Several band members aren’t pleased that she’s meddling in their affairs. Her father thinks she should find another hobby and her mother thinks the band is just a passing fad. But quicker than a sound check, Piper puts her mark on the band. She gets them interested in writing original songs (some of which are good and some of which are, well, like Brittany’s “My Cup”). She also helps them salvage a disastrous recording session, books them on a local radio show and even gets them on TV.
But the band doesn’t make it easy. The lead singer adds a beautiful but untalented guitar player to the group. The other guitarist is secretly in love with the bass player. And the drummer — Piper’s friend, Ed, who’s the most musically talented of the group — doesn’t get the respect he deserves because he looks like an accountant. When all the tension spills over into an actual brawl, on live TV no less, Piper’s life gets really interesting.
Suddenly she’s in trouble at school and at home, and everyone in the band expects her to fix things. Plus her feelings for her best friend, Ed, might be turning romantic. Can she decide what she wants, dish out a little justice and save the band from itself in time to give its members the big break they say they want?
Only if she can channel her inner rock star.
If I were a Glee librarian, I’d give the book to Brittany (after making sure it’s within her reading-comprehension range). I’d ask her to pay special attention to page 234 where Piper gets some really good advice:
Don’t worry about wanting to change; start worrying when you don’t feel like changing anymore. And in the meantime, enjoy every version of yourself you ever meet, because not everybody who discovers their true identity likes what they find.
Brittany does seem pretty content with who she is, and that’s good. This book would reinforce that. It also would help her realize that others shouldn’t be allowed to label her or limit what they think she can accomplish.
Most importantly, it would also help her see that although there might be five flavors of dumb, there many, many more ways to be smart.
Here’s the list of books I’ve recommended to Glee characters so far:
• Brittany Pierce – Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John.
• Mercedes Jones – Dramarama by E. Lockhart.
• Tina Cohen-Chang – My Not-So-Still Life by Liz Gallagher.
• Santana Lopez – Sister Mischief by Laura Goode.
• Blaine Anderson – Pitch Perfect by Mickey Rapkin.
• Finn Hudson – Struts & Frets by Jon Skovron.
• Sam Evans – Guitar Boy by MJ Auch.
• Quinn Fabray – Beauty Queens by Libba Bray.
• David Karofsky – Dairy Queen and The Off Season both by Catherine Gilbert Murdock.
• Rachel Berry – Theater Geek by Mickey Rapkin.
• Kurt Hummel – Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan.