Summary: Setting her sights on becoming the drummer of The Fourth Hand (THF) after she loses her place in her brother’s band when he goes off to university, Sid is all about the music. But THF is an all guy band sending Sid mixed messages. Some members think a girl member will break up the band, and others want her to dress more provocatively for the audience at their gigs. She’s competing against a fellow student named Wes for the spot, and even though she is clearly the more skilled drummer Sid decides to change her wardrobe to become what they want and hopefully snag the spot. Her new look is used as an excuse for sexual harassment, and Sid winds up questioning if getting the position of drummer is worth the price she has to pay as a girl.
Number of Pages: 231
Age Range: 15-17
Review: While I love Sid as a protagonist, Drummer Girl by Karen Bass makes me extremely sad. Sid begins the book with so much spirit. She is authentically herself, a girl who enjoys carpentry and drumming and is kick ass at both. But her world is shaken up when her brother goes off to university, leaving her with her father who is a workaholic with an ulcer. Drumming is an emotional release for her, as well as something she loves. Pursuing the position of drummer in The Fourth Hand changes her though, as to get the job she has to change who she is and start dressing in a way that sexualizes her. In the process she loses the friendship of her best friend Taylor who feels she isn’t being true to herself anymore while questioning his own sexuality and she is assaulted more than once.
At the very end, there’s a ray of hope as Sid is able to mend her friendship with Taylor, explain things to Brad (her new boyfriend), and even hints at starting her own band with her new friend Joanne.
The part that makes me uncomfortable is the lack of justice in the matter. I know Sid didn’t want to press charges or even tell anyone, but simple apologies just seemed so inadequate for what they did. Each band member sexually assaulted her, and one even filmed it and put it online. I had no problem with Bass’ writing because I thought she followed things through in a realistic manner, but the reality of the situation was sad and disturbing. The undercurrents of gender roles, the cost of trying to fit and the decision of how much one is willing to compromise in pursuit of their dreams are all things to be considered while reading Sid’s story, and her navigation through these themes are well explored.
I loved the use of drumming terms as chapter headings, and Sid’s ability to play both rock and roll and jazz. It’s a story with a powerful main character who can mostly take care of herself, but also learns relying on others is okay too.
“Which showed how little Brock knew about high school. If you didn’t fit in one of the accepted moulds, you were a freak, or an outcast, or both.” – Sid commenting on her counsellor’s naive beliefs about high school from Drummer Girl by Karen Bass, page 44
“She needed to tell someone about Wes the creep, arranger of great falls. Better yet, shout it from the rooftops. Except she didn’t want to tell Brad. What Rock had done to her had tarnished the wonderfulness of Brad’s kisses. It shouldn’t have, one had nothing to do with the other, but thinking about it made her want to gargle. Again.” – Sid from Drummer Girl by Karen Bass, pages 154-155
“He was gone again. Not that he’d been here. Roast pig tails? Running bananas? Flying bikes was the only thing that made sense. Some part of him must remember the accident. What had it felt like? Hitting the ground and crumpling the way a tin can does when you step on it.” – Sid musing about what Taylor remembers about the accident from Drummer Girl by Karen Bass, pages 176-177