Saturday, December 22, 2018

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

Books date. Sometimes very badly. I had fond memories of Deenie from my own middle school days (which is why I have the 1978 paperback cover, which is the one I remember), and we've used it for our Decades project, in which case the horrible attitudes of the mother are very illustrative. (Deenie is "the pretty one", Helen is "the smart one". I can't imagine a mother in 2018 using that distinction. It's also weird how the father is always the one to drive to important appointments and is generally portrayed as being the parent in charge, which is not entirely bad because the mother seems unstable.) Still, I think I'm going to weed (eyes downcast with shame) BOTH copies that I have.

So passes the glory of the world, indeed.

Blume, Judy. Deenie
January 1st 1973 by Bradbury Press
School library copy

Deenie's mother really wants her to be a model, because she's always been pretty and even won a contest as a baby. Since they live in New Jersey, they go to meet with modeling agents in New York City. They think that Deenie is pretty enough, but her posture isn't good. When Deenie tries out for the cheerleading squad and doesn't make it, her gym teacher calls home and mentions that Deenie really should see a doctor about her posture. When the diagnosis is scoliosis, Deenie convinces herself that she will have surgery to fix her back, recover glamorously in the polyester negligee her friends buy her, and go on with her life. Her mother engages in some whining hand-wringing. When it turns out that Deenie has to wear a Milwaukee brace, complete with boy's undershirt to keep the brace from chafing her skin, she does not react well. Her mother screams and cries, and when Deenie gets home, she chops off her hair. She has to wear Helen's old clothes, and is afraid that the boy on whom she has a crush, Bud, won't like her if she has on the brace. Eventually she settles in (this is a short book, just 159 pages), and tries to go to a party without wearing her brace. Her father insists, and it's okay because Bud likes her and kisses her even though she is wearing it.
Strengths: There are a lot of good details about the medical side of the brace, although I'm sure that some of these have changed. Still, visiting with doctors and the basic explanations are top notch. I wore a Boston brace that was all metal rods and canvas strapping, and today they are all plastic. Deenie's reaction is a bit extreme, but not unusual. Deenie's slight romance with Bud has its moments.
Weaknesses: Wow, 1973, how did any of us survive you? Deenie's mother comes across as being an absolute nut, and Deenie's obsession with cheerleading and boys was very true to life. Even I tried out for cheerleading, believe it or not. The part of this book that I really disliked was what Blume was particularly lauded for at the time-- introducing taboo topics like masturbation. At the time, they were revolutionary, but today they seem just randomly stuck in the book, and they are sort of like a slap in the face-- appearing with no explanation and then not really addressed again. The "rap sessions" with the teacher were particularly awkward.
What I really think: Because this deals with a medical issue for which the treatment has changed, I'm going to have to weed this one. It's just too far out of the understanding of most children (whose grandmothers would be Deenie's age) for this to be in any way helpful.

Below, original cover and a Milwaukee brace.


Ms. Yingling


  1. Have you read "Braced" by Alyson Gerber? That is a very good, much more modern (written in 2017) novel covering similar ground.

    1. Yeah! It is MUCH better! Also, Hruza's Dear Isaac Newton, You're Ruining My Life.