Remember Seventh Grade? Not just the fun stuff, but also the awkwardness, the self-consciousness, all that stuff that came along with puberty? Now imagine all of that with one more layer on top.
Rachel Brooks is your typical Seventh Grader. She loves soccer, she texts her friends nonstop, she is embarrassed by her parents, and she is starting to get interested in boys. She also has scoliosis.
So far, her scoliosis has simply meant doctor’s appointments twice a year with her spine doctor. Even the appointments have become pretty routine to Rachel. But this time, instead of sending her off to return again in six months, the doctor announces that the curve in her spine has gotten much worse and she will need to wear a back brace. Twenty-three hours a day for six months to a year, until her spine stops growing.
The brace is hard plastic with cushioned padding inside, and spans from Rachel’s armpits to her hips. It hurts where it rubs against her skin and creates blisters that might scar. Rachel can’t fit into any of her old clothes because of the bulk of the brace. Even with bigger clothes, Rachel is certain everyone can see the lumps and bulges of the brace.
My heart broke over and over as I read Rachel’s struggle to find peace with this new reality that she finds herself in. Alyson Gerber captured the middle grader’s self-consciousness with remarkable skill and accuracy.
I do not mean that to suggest that Braced is all about tears and sadness. To the contrary, Rachel shows astounding determination in the face of her challenge. Before her doctor determined that Rachel would need to wear a brace, Rachel was having a promising start to the year on her soccer team. So she decides that even with the brace, she will play soccer, and she and her friends work toward that goal. Her friends help pick clothes that will flatter her, and provide support as she goes to school in the brace each day.
Readers will see themselves in Rachel or gain inspiration from her. While Rachel’s situation is fairly unique, her feelings are not. Kids will recognize the feeling of being different and the certainty that everyone is looking at or talking about them. This might be because they wear a back brace, because they are in a wheelchair, or because they: wear glasses; wear braces; are too short, too tall, too fat, or too thin; or any number of other reasons why they feel insecure. No matter how large or small the reason, at this age, anything can feel insurmountable, and that is why Rachel’s story is so encouraging.
I have no idea how I missed this fabulous debut novel when it came out earlier this year! I am so glad that Ms. Gerber decided to participate in the 2017 Debut Authors Bash so that I could discover Rachel Brooks and Braced.
Ms. Gerber’s website is www.alysongerber.com. Her News page includes a description of how wearing a back brace impacted her growing up and a link to the Barnes & Noble blog, where she discusses her experience at summer camp in a back brace. Ms. Gerber includes links to websites with more information about scoliosis on her website as well as in the Author’s Note in Braced.
I am excited to be participating in this year’s Debut Authors Bash! Over the next two weeks, I will be sharing three more new novels by debut authors (either with full reviews or just some details about the books).
And… most exciting of all… there are giveaways for most of these books! Not just here on 2 Cooks Crafting Books, but at many of the other bloggers’ sites as well! So check out #17DABash on Twitter to find other debut authors featured this month (and maybe snag some of their books!).
Ms. Gerber is giving away a copy of her book, Braced. This giveaway is open to winners from the US and international locations.
DON’T FORGET TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!!!