Monday, March 27, 2017

MMGM- Braced

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and  #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday. 

29283087Gerber, Alyson. Braced.
March 28th 2017 by Scholastic Press
EARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Rachel is very concerned about starting middle school and getting a good position on the soccer team. She is struggling with that fact that her mother is pregnant and her friends are not always all that nice to her. When her doctor tells her that her scoliosis is getting worse and she will have to wear a back brace 23 hours a day, she is sure that this is a horrible, horrible thing. To complicate matters, the scoliosis is genetic, and her mother wore a brace but had to have surgery to fuse her spine. This makes her even more nervous for Rachel, and stricter about enforcing the hours that Rachel has to wear the brace. Rachel goes through the typical histrionics (stopping short of the completely hysterical exploits of Blume's 1974 Deenieabout her clothing,what people will think, and how the brace will affect her soccer playing, but generally comes to terms with the limitations of the brace and how she needs to work around them. She even develops a nice romantic relationship with the understanding Tate, who even drops his best friend when he is exceptionally unkind to her. 
Strengths: This is DEFINITELY a topic on which we needed an updated book, and I appreciated how Rachel wasn't pleased with the brace but her parents were supportive and made her wear it. The difficulties were portrayed realistically, with a healthy does of tween friend and boyfriend drama to liven things up. The fact that the mother had also been treated for scoliosis added an interesting dynamic.
Weaknesses: I was Rachel's life wasn't quite so privileged, since this would have made the book more relatable. Not everyone can go to the mall to get all new clothes.
What I really think: This is a great novel, and one which every middle school library needs to investigate. Most of my objections were based on my own experiences.

May 1979
Disclaimer: I wore a back brace in middle school. Because this occurred in 1978-80, my brace wasn't plastic. It was metal, fairly heavy, and had a support under my left arm that resembled the top of a crutch. I had to wear short sleeved boys t shirts under it to prevent chafing. My clothes at the time were a size 1; because times were tight financially for my family, I was lucky that my mother's size 9 clothing fit me. I made myself a couple of jumpers in home ec, and wore a lot of vests and untucked shirts, which were not the way shirts were worn at the time. 

There is only one picture taken of me during this time period where the brace is in evidence. 

I remember feeling fortunate that I was able to wear the brace. My mother and aunts had bad backs, and I had no desire to be in pain in the future. Surgery wasn't discussed as an option-- I don't know if my curve was not bad enough to warrant it. It was somewhat difficult to bowl, the only sport that I did at the time, but I was never ashamed of the brace or felt a need to hide it from anyone. My friends were such that they wouldn't have cared if I had shaved my head and worn flannel sacks to school. Also, there were no boys even remotely interested in me. Looking back, I guess I was lucky. 

Therefore, when I read books about girls who get all bent out of shape about medical intervention, it seems odd to me. That being said, I think there is a girl at my school who is supposed to be wearing a brace now and isn't. The drama is pitch perfect, but it just wasn't my experience. 


  1. This sounds like an interesting book. Scoliosis isn't found in books too often, yet it must be common enough that we were checked for it every semester in school. I do have a friend who has told me about her scoliosis experience. She spent a while in a body cast and later a brace. She doesn't wear anything now, but she still has trouble.

  2. I really appreciate your personal reflections - I often wish we had more stories that show a wider range of responses to major life events, and that recognise that kids deal with life's challenges in different ways, not all of them negative. This is something I find problematic when looking for LGBTQ books, or books dealing with divorce or foster care. The reality is that not every child has a negative experience, but finding these stories can be a challenge, which can be a real downer for kids looking to read books that mirror their own experiences.

  3. Really interesting to hear both your thoughts on the book and your own experiences. How wonderful that you had the support of your friends (and just generally today seems like a much more judgemental time to be a teenager, doesn't it?).

  4. Thanks for sharing your perspectives on this experience Karen. One of my highschool friends had to be in a body cast and was away from school for about a year because of her scoliosis. Mine, thankfully, has never been bad enough that I needed to wear a brace, although I had back issues during both my pregnancies. (My boys are worth it)

  5. So fascinating to read about your own experience - I had a kiddo in my class who wore a brace, too - she didn't particularly like to but she knew it would be worth it all in the end...and it was.

  6. Great review & I appreciated the inclusion of your own story.

  7. Thank you for sharing what must have been a difficult experience for you at the time. While my daughter does not have scoliosis, we ask her to wear some kind of wrap around cloth support for her posture. Thank you also for juxtaposing your experience with this novel that I will now definitely be on the lookout for.