Synopsis: Deenie tells the story of an attractive 13-year-old girl who is diagnosed with scoliosis and prescribed to wear a Milwaukee back brace for the next four years to correct the curvature in her spine. Deenie’s mother, Thelma, is set on Dennie becoming a model and has a hard time dealing with the diagnosis. Dennie is a bit relieved that her back brace will ease her mother’s push into a modeling career but also concerned that it will put a damper on her teenage lifestyle.
Rating: (5/5) ★★★★★
Written in 1973, the author wonderfully captured the energy and youthfulness of a young 13-year-old Deenie transitioning into her teenage years. The story takes us back to reminiscing middle school as Deenie has lunch with friends, tries out for the cheerleading squad and even finds her first crush, Deenie is described as an attractive young lady while her sister, Helen, is the brain of the family. Deenie’s mother, Thelma, already has the future occupations of her daughters chosen for them and is pushing Deenie to enter the modeling industry. Once Deenie is diagnosed with Scoliosis, Thelma is devastated as she believes the diagnosis will negatively affect Deenie’s modeling career. Deenie finds herself to be a bit relieved, as she wasn’t so sure about modeling anyways, but is worried of what her peers will think of her new back brace, especially her crush Buddy Brader.
While recently taking Judy Blume’s writing course on the Masterclass platform, I first heard of Deenie when Judy spoke about the story during one of her lessons. Like Deenie, I too had to wear a back brace for several years and thought the commonality would make it an interesting story to read. I hardly read young adult fiction but once I started the story I couldn’t put it down. With bits of comedy, serious situations and lots of down right real life moments of a 13-year-old, I found the story and the characters to be quite entertaining.
“I wonder if she thinks of herself as a handicapped person or just a regular girl, like me”– Judy Blume, Deenie
Thirteen is a peculiar age to be. It’s a time when one is entering a new stage in their life, shedding their childhood ways, experiencing new feelings and emotions for the first time and attempting to fit in and make sense of the years ahead. Deenie touched on a range of topics that come with “growing up” but are not always visited in the YA including puberty and masturbation, while also including more common scenes of a potential first love, mentally maturing and gaining compassion and understanding of others.
I would recommend Deenie to young readers and adult readers as well. For young readers, it is good to know that others their age is having the same thoughts, doubts and trials as they may be experiencing. For adult readers, it is a great story to reminiscence of a simpler time, that didn’t feel so simple at the time, but then to also appreciate the fact that we are no longer thirteen.