Gerber does a really good job of describing the difficulties of being braced, from the discomfort and pain, to the embarrassment and humiliation, and trying to react normally to how people react to it. And all of it is exactly like having orthodontic braces is like!
She really gets and explains it, summing it up in an author's note, where she admits:
Over time my brace became easier to manage physically, but emotionally I never adjusted. During the two years and four months I spent in a brace, I didn’t open up to anyone about how alone and insecure I felt. I held my pain inside. It took all of my strength to go to school acting like nothing had changed, while at the same time feeling uncomfortable and exposed. I used my brace as a shield, because I didn’t want anyone to see me the way I saw myself—as different. As an adult, I can see that was a mistake. I never stopped hating my brace, and it was such a big part of who I was every day that it had a negative effect on my self-image.That is so exactly how I feel about braces — and I think a lot of other kids and adults who have been through it do too. And of course that's also what I try to do in a lot of my books. To work through that, and try to help others work through that.
So the one thing that was really disappointing about this book — in which Rachel, the girl with the braces, is in seventh grade! — was that NO ONE has braces. None of her friends or classmates. Maybe Gerber thinks braces are like so widespread and 'normal' that it isn't even noticeable or worth mentioning. But I think the kids with braces on their teeth are feeling a lot like Rachel is, and it would have been neat to see some of them, and their pain, acknowledged here too.
I posted my review of the book at Goodreads. And despite there not being any orthodontically braced characters, I can still recommend it a lot.
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