Braced is Alyson Gerber’s debut middle-grade novel and was at the top of my backlist TBR picks. I enjoyed Gerber’s Focused which tackled ADHD and featured a chess-playing protagonist. In Braced, Rachel Brooks has finally scored a spot as a forward on her soccer team. She just needs one more doctor’s visit to check on her scoliosis — one she hopes will be the last.
Unfortunately, the doctor has bad news for her: the curve has worsened and she’ll have to wear a back brace. Worse still, she needs to be in a back brace for twenty-three hours a day. How will she still play soccer? What will her friends think? And what about Tate, the boy she’s crushing on?
To top things off, her mom (who had scoliosis as a child and is adamant on enforcing Rachel’s treatment) is having a baby soon. It also doesn’t help that her dad’s busy job as a doctor means he’s not home often enough.
Just like her sophomore novel, Braced is immersive and features a strong female lead. Author Gerber also addresses something she’s personally struggled with: scoliosis and being in a back brace. Understandably, Rachel resists the idea of wearing a brace, is even embarrassed by it. But she slowly starts to realize that a perspective change may make things easier on everyone.
Another unique angle to this story and one that keeps things interesting is that Rachel’s mother also had scoliosis. Her mother’s fear and post-traumatic stress from her experience with the complications of scoliosis cause her to be occasionally hard on Rachel. Both of them have to navigate the impact of Rachel’s scoliosis on their relationship.
Finally, Rachel’s friends are mostly supportive — even if there’s a bit of tween drama. They also learn to identify toxic relationships and the book does deal a bit with first loves and relationships. I also thought the ending was incredibly realistic.
This was a win for me! I’m happy to have found another middle-grade author whose books and writing style I enjoy. Alyson Gerber has proven that she’s not afraid to write honest, serious books with determined heroines. Still, her books are never lacking in middle-school drama or teen worries.
Braced is an important, realistic story of a girl dealing with scoliosis in middle school. With an immersive, charged plot, this story touches multiple themes from scoliosis, to soccer, family, the death of a parent, and even the emotions of welcoming a new sibling.
Buy This Book
Have you read Braced or Focused by Alyson Gerber? I’m anticipating her next middle-grade release! I recently shared a list of middle-grade books featuring characters with physical disabilities. Now, I think it may be time for one with physical illnesses.