Deenie is an attractive seventh-grader whose mother, determined that her good looks not be wasted, is pushing her toward modeling. When she tries out for the cheerleading team, however, Deenie's gym teacher notices her slightly crooked posture and refers her to an orthopedist who diagnoses adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Both Deenie and her mother are horrified. Deenie decides an operation to "fix it" is the lesser of two evils when the alternative is to wear a brace for four years, but the doctor assures her the brace is the appropriate treatment.

Wearing the brace, initially merely a source of embarrassment, frustration, and anger, gradually makes Deenie aware of other kids with whom she has avoided contact because of various "handicaps." Her relationships within the family and among friends shift because of this new self-awareness and of others' varied capacities to accommodate to her new limitations.

The most gratifying discovery for her is that the boy with whom she has been developing a first romance does not find the brace a barrier either to friendship or to the tentative intimacies of early love. The subtheme of developing sexuality complements the novel's focus on body image as a crucial aspect of adolescent psychology.


Blume continues in this novel her characteristic direct focus on the very real and "life-size" problems adolescents may face. Deenie is not in all respects a sympathetic heroine; she has a lot to learn both about herself and about her exclusionary attitudes toward people she has categorized and dismissed. Deenie's problematic relationship with a difficult, overambitious mother and her emerging sexuality are developed as aspects of her life that complicate her response to her diagnosis.

The novel would be useful for discussion in groups of children with disabilities of any kind, and for classes or workshops in which "difference" and "diversity" are at issue. Disability is one of the "diversity" issues often overlooked in discussions that focus on diversity of other kinds. This story might well serve to open up wider questions of how one defines and experiences visible difference.


Bantam Doubleday Dell

Place Published

New York



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