So, I am very aware that Deenie is an older book from the 70s. I tried to take this into consideration as I was reading this book. It follows the life of Deenie, a seventh grader who wants to make the cheerleading squad and who doesn’t like modeling–in spite of her mother pushing her toward it. The themes within this book are aligned with many young adult, coming of age types of tales. This book has also garnered its way onto the banned books list several times in the past due to mentioning topics such as menstruating, sexuality, and masturbation. As a twenty something year old adult, these themes were not controversial for me to read. However, if I were in my early teens and the beginning stages of puberty, I can see how such a novel could be banned as it would cause disruption for a young girl (or boy) to read.
Deenie’s mother is a hovercraft mom. She wants Deenie to be a model. Deenie doesn’t need to focus on her grades in school, since she has a pretty face. And all this pressure on Deenie makes her feel small at times. Deenie’s mother is constantly harping her about standing up straight, believing that Deenie does it simply to aggravate her. However, it is nothing Deenie is intentionally doing. Instead, Deenie finds herself going to several doctors until she gets a diagnosis: adolescent idiopathic scoliosis.
This diagnosis leads to much discomfort for Deenie. She has to be fitted for a brace to straighten the curvature in her back, suffers from skin rashes due to the brace, and feels much scrutiny from her peers about her brace. Understandably, she is distraught over the fact that she has to wear this brace. The doctors have told her that she is going to have to wear the brace for at least four years to correct the curvature of her spine. This news all coupled with the teenage angst and drama in her life becomes overwhelming to her and it soon strains on the entire family.
Deenie’s father is forced to make cuts at his job in order to pay medical bills from Deenie’s scoliosis. Deenie needed new clothes that would fit around her brace with comfort and even then, the brace continually tears into her clothes.
Overall, I give this book a 2.5 star rating out of 5. I think when it was first released, it was most likely a very popular and powerful book. Yet, the themes in it don’t transcend as much as some other books in the genre can do. What I did enjoy about the book was how Blume tackled the topic of illness. Deenie feels like it is something she has done that has caused the scoliosis, when really it was all out of her control and had to do with genetics. Blume handles the doctor scenes with great ease and believability.