Braced by Alyson Gerber

Braced by Alyson Gerber. March 28, 2017. Scholastic Press, 281 p. ISBN: 9780545902144.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.8.

The first contemporary novel about a disorder that bends the lives of ten percent of all teenagers: scoliosis.

Rachel Brooks is excited for the new school year. She’s finally earned a place as a forward on her soccer team. Her best friends make everything fun. And she really likes Tate, and she’s pretty sure he likes her back. After one last appointment with her scoliosis doctor, this will be her best year yet.

Then the doctor delivers some terrible news: The sideways curve in Rachel’s spine has gotten worse, and she needs to wear a back brace twenty-three hours a day. The brace wraps her in hard plastic from shoulder blades to hips. It changes how her clothes fit, how she kicks a ball, and how everyone sees her — even her friends and Tate. But as Rachel confronts all the challenges the brace presents, the biggest change of all may lie in how she sees herself.

Written by a debut author who wore a brace of her own, Braced is the inspiring, heartfelt story of a girl learning to manage the many curves life throws her way.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Bullying

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 4-7. Rachel’s life is going really well. She’s 12 and totally crushing it on the soccer field (which means more time with her best-friend teammates), and everyone agrees that the ridiculously cute Tate is within days of asking her to be official BF/GF. All of that comes to a crashing halt when her Boston specialist reveals she has scoliosis. In fact, the curvature of her spine is so extreme that she’ll have to wear a back brace—a heavy hulk of white padded plastic stretching from armpits to tail bone—for 23 hours a day. She tries to keep her spirits up but feels like a freak. Her soccer game plummets, and it seems like everyone—even her friends and Tate—are whispering in the halls. How can everything turn upside down so quickly? And where can she possibly find the strength to power through? Rachel’s first-person narration relays her story in a surprisingly intimate, beautifully earnest voice, likely attributable to Gerber herself suffering from scoliosis and wearing a fitted brace in her formative years. Here she captures the preteen mindset so authentically that it’s simultaneously delightful and painful. Every hallway whisper and direct insult will cut to the reader’s heart, and the details about the process of wearing a brace in all its agonies—and, yes, benefits—are a natural and enlightening thread through the story. A masterfully constructed and highly empathetic debut about a different kind of acceptance.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2016)
Both the literal and figurative senses of the word “spine” form the backbone of Gerber’s debut. The same day white seventh-grader Rachel Brooks starts in an important soccer game, she learns that her scoliosis has worsened, and she now needs to wear a brace for 23 hours a day. The author, who wore a brace herself, vividly conveys its constricting bulk. But her spine isn’t the only curve Rachel has to brace herself for. Her mother, whose own scoliosis required a spinal fusion, is rigid and unsympathetic as the brace affects Rachel’s soccer technique and jeopardizes her place on the team. Her classmates gossip, and though her friends and crush are generally supportive, the author nails their realistic discomfort at being bullied by association. Ultimately, her friends help her to adjust, and Rachel learns to assert herself. As Rachel grows a spine, her mother learns to bend, sympathetically revealing the fears she never addressed during her own treatment. Their disparate experiences give scoliosis—and their relationship—nuance as well as tension. The author doesn’t diminish Rachel’s difficulties, but at heart her story is uplifting; a brace can be a “built-in drum” to dance to. An author’s note provides a short list of scoliosis resources. Comparisons to Judy Blume’s Deenie (1973) might be inevitable, but Rachel stands admirably on her own. (Fiction. 11-14)

About the Author

Alyson Gerber wore a back brace for scoliosis from the age of eleven to thirteen, an experience that led directly to Braced. She received her MFA in Writing for Children from the New School, and before that she taught elementary and middle school students in a supplementary education program. She lives with her husband in Brooklyn.

Her website is www.alysongerber.com

Around the Web

Braced on Amazon

Braced  on Goodreads

Braced  on JLG

Braced  Publisher Page

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