Deenie - Judy Blume | BISP Month

Hello readers!

I hope you are all doing fine and that the summer is looking like you'll be able to chill and read as much as you'd like!
I apologise for my constant absence of the blogosphere these past weeks, work has been literally crazy and I have just enough time to be sleep-deprived :) I can't believe I received a million cool books and haven't been able to post an IMM... The next weeks look better though and I'll finally be able to read more than 2 books a week!!! Wouhou!

Anyways! I will now continue my participation to the Body Image and Self Perception Month hosted by Jo at Once Upon a Bookcase with the book Deenie by Judy Blume about a young girl with scoliosis as well as a little paragraph from someone who has been through the same problems (who is none other than my sister :))!

Summary from Amazon:

Mrs Fenner has very fixed ambitions for her daughters. Deenie is 13 years old and gorgeous. Her mother wants her to be a model – but Deenie's not so sure.

So when she's diagnosed with scoliosis – curvature of the spine – Deenie's almost relieved. No more traipsing round modelling agencies, no more living up to her mother's expectations. But she has to wear an ugly, uncomfortable back brace for the next four years. And she's convinced that it will put an end to normal teenage life – including her blossoming relationship with Buddy Brader . . .


The only reason why I chose this book is because my big sister has had a serious case of scoliosis and had to wear a brace for a while, and since it is hereditary I was regularly checked for it. Though it's not a very talked-about condition, it is quite common.

The story revolves around 13 year old Deenie who is being bossed around by her mother to become a model. She had had a few comments about her posture by model agents and after some exams, Deenie is diagnosed with scoliosis and needs to wear a brace for 4 years. 
I found this story very touching and sweet. Judy Blume takes a fairly overlooked theme - scoliosis - and builds this story about Deenie that isn't just about back problems. The story is told from Deenie's point of view and I found that it showed the anguish that goes through a young girl when she goes from childhood to her teenage self.

For as long as she can remember, Deenie has been considered by her mother the Beauty and her big sister Helen the Brain. From this simple constatation, Deenie's life has been predestined to modelling by her mother's expectations and Helen to academics, to the point that Helen would be chastised to do her homework and no one cared if Deenie did hers.
More than talking about the issue of scoliosis and body image, the book talks about the opinion of others on one person and how their attitude shifts depending on that opinion. In clearer terms, Deenie's mother is guilty of ruining her daughter's life because of her archaic vision of life. This is the polite version by the way. 
I most entirely hated the character of the mother, I mean, how can someone be so blind? And I liked how her character was balanced by Deenie's father who actually cares about his daughter and believes her health and well-being are more important than modelling. 

Sometimes you think that the kids are the ones obsessing on their physical features, but I believe that a healthy family environment actually helps soothe those obsessions. Here, it is the contrary, Deenie's mother makes it harder for Deenie to cope with her brace. Thankfully, her sister, her father and friends make her think that there are more important things in life.

I found it interesting how Deenie is afraid and sometimes disgusted by people with medical condition, like a woman with a bump on her back or a girl with eczema in her gym class, I found that her entire process of understanding of others' conditions actually helped her understand her own. 

I liked the fact that Deenie wanted to make something of her life with her brain and not just want to make a living on her body. That's exactly how it should be :)

This book is very sweet and I believe is targeted to the younger audience of the young adult readers (11-15 years old), but I think that some parents should read the book because their "wanting the best for their children" sometimes is counterproductive. Just saying.


Since I reviewed this book as part of the Body image and Self Perception Month and that the aim of this month is to talk about those problems rather than keep them bottled up inside, I have asked my sister Audrey, who suffered from scoliosis and had to wear a brace, to write a little paragraph on how she felt and how it was perceived. I translated it from French, so excuse the poor quality of it!

When the doctor announced that it would be either an operation or a brace, I was speechless and mortified. It was horrible news to me. At 14 years old, wearing this thing was impossible. The process began, I couldn’t do anything else than undergo it. Always the same questions: why me? why life would make me go through this? Didn’t I go through enough already? The day arrived where my mother and I went to the paediatrics part of the hospital, decorated with the brightest colours, as if nothing serious would happen. When the secretary brought us to the room, my heart crumpled. They had to mould my abdomen and it was painfully hot, but because of the pain I was obliged to wear at least two shirts under the brace. I was at first worried about announcing this to my middle school friends, but I was pleasantly surprised by their understanding. They immediately nicknamed me Robocop and were impressed by my iron abs which they would playfully hit. There were many constraints to wearing the brace (heat, excess laundry…) but I actually keep a good memory of the whole thing since now my back is straight and I am less in pain. I believe that there are worse things in life, especially when you are sitting in the paediatrics aisle of the hospital where scoliosis is hardly a problem compared to the others.

That's it for today sweethearts, have a lovely evening and don't forget to hop by Jo's blog for the latest articles of the BISP Month!!

And thanks Audrey for sharing this with the readers of the BISP Month!!


  1. Wow, I really love your reflections on the themes of body-image in this review. I have never heard of the condition scoliosis (sp?) before. Thanks for the insight. The mother sounds hideous.

  2. I read Deenie many years ago and remember being really touched by it (maybe I should again to remind myself never to be a pushy mother) Thanks to you and your sister Audrey for the personal insight.

  3. I read Deenie when I was small and it is one of my favorite books from childhood. Thank you for reviewing this awesome book, and thanks to your sister for sharing her story!

  4. I, too, wanted to smack Deenie's mother on the head. Geez! Talk about being pushy... and I loved the part when Helen breaks down and says she has no "special brain".

    When I was in middle school (mid 90's), scoliosis was actually discussed a lot and we girls were almost all checked for it. Two of my classmates had to wore corsets (ugh). I was so scared I'd have to wear one, too. (I got to wear braces in my mouth, instead.)

  5. @ Becky: Thanks so much!! Yes scoliosis is just something hereditary which starts at puberty and brings bad back problems, if treated it's not serious at all. Yes the mother is definitely not an ideal mother... Who wants their daughters to do modelling anyway?!!

    @ Rhiana: I didn't know Judy Blume before but I see that she wrote quite a few YA books a few decades ago, it was interesting to discover her! And I'm sure you read enough YA books to be able to understand teenagers better than any other parents!

    @ Kris: Thanks Kris!! It is a beautiful story indeed!

    @ Alessandra: I also really liked the character of Helen as well, and the one scene where she hugs Deenie, I had tears in my eyes!! I luckily never had any problems during my teenage years, but now I have arms coming out of my shoulders and I faint regularly, so I'm not sure I was lucky after all!!!

  6. I'd seen this book in the library before but didn't really know what it was about - sounds like it'd be an interesting read. I remember we were all checked for scoliosis in school but I didn't know much about it. And thanks to your sister for sharing her thoughts on her experiences..

  7. Wonderful review, and so interesting to read your sister's thoughts, too. Thank you so much for this. I loved this book when I was a child, and I remember being checked for scoliosis at school as well.

  8. Such an interesting review, and the input from your sister really added something special to it.

    I have to admit that when I think of body image, I automatically think of negative body image as being the problem. But this review has reminded me that it can be just as bad for too much attention to be focused on someone's good looks. Thanks for such a thought-provoking post.