Deenie is easy to read, but many readers will understand only the main storyline of Deenie’s scoliosis and treatment. There are a number of subthemes: sibling rivalry, being handicapped, sexuality, and parent/child relationships.
Deenie takes place over several months as she comes to understand herself and her family better. Family relations are explored from different aspects. Ma wants Deenie to be a model even though she is more interested in cheerleading. When Aunt Rae reports that the modeling agency will see her when the brace is off, Deenie is upset that they see her only as a face and not as a person. Helen and Deenie have never understood each other. Deenie believes that Helen hates her because Ma always says that Helen has brains and Deenie has beauty. Deenie knows that she is not expected to get high grades, just no D’s or F’s. When their parents discover that Helen has not been studying in the evenings but has been at the gas station with Joe Roscow, Joe is fired. Ma says that there are too many medical bills to pay, and Joe has dirty fingernails. Deenie remarks that anyone working in a gas station gets dirty fingernails, even Daddy, and that Deenie is the one seeing the doctor. The sisters fall into each other’s arms, crying, as Ma says “I wanted better for you. Better than what I had for myself. That’s what I’ve always planned for my girls.”
Daddy provides support for Deenie when she finally gets the brace. She feels as if she is in a cage and must relearn simple tasks since she cannot bend her neck or back. Her clothes must be larger to go over the brace, and finding what she needs is difficult; for the present, she is content to wear Helen’s clothes. The night of Janet’s party, Deenie wants to be like everyone else and not wear the brace. Ma says that it...
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Judy Blume remembers exactly what it was like to be young and what she wanted to know at certain ages as she was growing up. She is able to project herself back to specific stages of her life and is thus able to write as young people speak. She has also written about sexuality and relationships in her other adolescent novels. These books are often identified with specific sexual topics: Deenie with masturbation; Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret (1970) with menstruation; Then Again, Maybe I Won’t (1971) with wet dreams; and Forever (1975) with intercourse. Her books that explore social relationships include Blubber (1974), about ostracism and cruelty; It’s Not the End of the World (1972), about divorce; Tiger Eyes (1983), about death; and Just as Long as We’re Together (1987) and Here’s to You, Rachel Robinson (1993), about family and peer relations. Blume is a favorite author of adolescents because she writes interesting stories with credible characters.