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Rachel Brooks has scoliosis, which presents as an unusual curvature of the spine. So far Rachel has been lucky in that the doctors have had to do nothing more than monitor her spine. But all that changes when she goes to her "last" appointment and the doctor delivers terrible news: the curve in her spine has gotten worse and as a result she will have to wear a brace for at least six months. Rachel will have to use this huge, painful, ugly thing for 23 hours a day. To say she's upset is an understatement. Alyson Gerber paints a vivid picture of life with this disability in her engrossing and informative debut.

I really liked BRACED. The plot is simple, direct and character-driven. Alyson Gerber writes from experience and it definitely shows. Her detailed descriptions make it easy for the reader to empathize with Rachel and her situation. I really liked that Gerber chose to write about scoliosis. It's a disability that is almost never talked about, which is kind of surprising considering it affects millions of people, predominately females. I also liked that we get to see two different ways scoliosis can go. Rachel has the milder case, whereas her mother's is quite severe. I feel it's really important to show multiple sides of an issue because people's experiences often differ.

"BRACED gives readers an excellent and enlightening portrayal of disability, strong characters, and one of the most realistic contemporaries I've ever read."

Alyson Gerber somehow managed to make almost every single element of the story amazingly realistic, from Rachel's struggles at home and school to the interpersonal relationships portrayed in the novel. I liked how all the side characters were really well developed and layered, not like those abundant and empty filler characters in similar books. I also appreciated that more issues were discussed than just Rachel's disability. For instance, let’s take a look at Rachel's best friends Hazel and Frannie. Hazel's struggling with peer pressure, while Frannie's trying cope with the aftermath of her mother's overdose. Meanwhile, Rachel's friend/crush Logan is dealing with not only the absence of a beloved sibling (who's away at college), but also peer pressure from his bullying best friend. Mrs. Brooks also has a lot on her plate, what with trying to help her daughter, dealing with her own scoliosis-related trauma, all while being pregnant and often alone as her husband works long hours at a hospital. Rachel was a subtly strong character and I related to her more than most characters I've read.

In addition to teaching the reader about scoliosis throughout the novel, Alyson Gerber also included a list of sites related to scoliosis at the end of the book. The websites ranged from support groups to medical. I really liked the inclusion of this list and personally found it to be helpful and educational.    

Overall, BRACED gives readers an excellent and enlightening portrayal of disability, strong characters, and one of the most realistic contemporaries I've ever read. I'd recommend it to contemporary-lovers and people who have scoliosis or are looking to learn more about it. On a side note to content conscientiousness parents, there is some light talk of breast-grabbing in this book. It's a brief scene, but you might not want your younger children reading it.   

Reviewed by Rachel A., Teen Board Member on July 26, 2017

by Alyson Gerber