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Deenie book cover.jpg
First edition
Author Judy Blume
Country United States
Language English
Genre Young adult novel
Publisher Bradbury Press
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 160 pp
ISBN 0-87888-061-5
OCLC 800751
LC Class PZ7.B6265 De

Deenie is a 1973 young adult novel written by Judy Blume.

Plot summary[edit]

Deenie chronicles the life of 13-year-old Wilmadeene "Deenie" Fenner, whose mother is determined to have her become a model. At the same time, Deenie's 16-year-old sister, Helen, who is academically proficient, is being pushed by their mother, Thelma, to keep her grades up so that she can eventually become a doctor or a lawyer. One day, Deenie is diagnosed with scoliosis, and is prescribed a body brace to wear for the next four years. At the same time, Helen has fallen in love with Joe, a charming and romantic young gentleman who works for the family business, a gas station. Thelma, upset that her plans for her daughters are coming undone, has Joe fired and still exhorts Deenie to pursue a modeling career once she stops wearing the back brace. Fearful that Helen hates her because Thelma's excuse for letting Joe go was because of the family's doctors' bills, Deenie is astonished to learn that Helen refuses to blame her for Joe's departure, and the sisters close ranks.

Though initially upset at having to wear the body brace, Deenie eventually resigns herself to her fate. She finds herself at peace with the idea of not becoming a model, and, inspired by her experience, begins to ponder a future career as an orthopedist, concluding that she never really wanted to be a model anyway. The book concludes with Deenie asking her father, Frank, for permission to not wear the brace to Janet's party. Though Thelma is amenable to the idea, Frank, who, until then, was rather mute about everything, firmly refuses, rightfully pointing out that Deenie would want to not wear the brace for every special occasion thereafter if he gave in that night. In defiance, Deenie brings a bag with the outfit that would not fit over the brace to Janet's house, intending to remove the brace and change clothes once there, but she changes her mind and leaves the bag in Janet's room for the duration of the party.

Other story arcs include Deenie's friendship with Barbara Curtis,a girl whose eczema alienates her, and Deenie's anxiety over whether her crush will still like her in spite of her back brace.

Deenie is named after the character Natalie Wood played in Splendor in the Grass. The movie itself was mentioned in description in the book, though the name of the movie was not.


An important topic is of parents "pigeonholing" their kids into a profession they want them to go into, as was the case of Deenie's mother to both her and Helen, with the excuse that she "just wanted better" for them. In her words, "Is that so wrong?"


This book, like many others written by Blume, has been banned in schools for themes deemed inappropriate for adolescents; in this case, talk about masturbation and sexuality. Deenie is on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000 at forty-sixth. [1]

The passages that are most frequently cited as reasons for removing the book from libraries are: "[That week] I touched my special place practically every night. It was the only way I could fall asleep and besides, it felt good" [p. 79 in the 2005 Laurel-Leaf edition] and "Usually I take showers and get in and out as fast as possible. But the hot water [in the bathtub] was very relaxing and soon I began to enjoy it. I reached down and touched my special place with the washcloth. I rubbed and rubbed until I got that good feeling" [p. 129].

These, along with a discussion about menstruation and masturbation [p. 79-82] led by a gym teacher, are the core of the objections to the novel. The book is otherwise usually described as insightful and accurate in portraying a young girl dealing with her diagnosis of scoliosis, as well as coming of age.


  • Deenie Fenner — The main character. Her mother's plans for her to become a model are in jeopardy when she is diagnosed with scoliosis.
  • Thelma Fenner — Deenie's mother. Telling just about everyone that "Deenie's the beauty, Helen's the brain," she pushes her daughters towards careers that she believes are best suited for them.
  • Frank Fenner — Deenie's father.
  • "Aunt" Rae — Thelma's best friend. She follows Thelma's lead into pushing Deenie towards a modeling career.
  • Janet Kayser — One of Deenie's best friends. She is selected for the cheerleading squad instead of Deenie.
  • Midge Otonis — Another of Deenie's best friends. She is larger than most of the other girls and is often ignored by boys.
  • Helen Fenner — Deenie's older sister. Thelma exhorts her to keep up her grades, to the exclusion of all non-academic pursuits, in the hopes that she will eventually become a doctor or lawyer.
  • Buddy Brader — A boy Deenie that Deenie likes; he turns out to like her, too.
  • Steve Hildrick — A boy Janet has a crush on.
  • Harvey — The president of the student council, and another boy that Janet has a crush on.
  • Joe — A young man who works at the gas station with Frank. Thelma has him fired not long after he and Helen are caught together.
  • Barbara Curtis — a new friend of Deenie's; she suffers from eczema, which causes nearly everyone else to ostracize her. Deenie herself had not wanted to associate with Barbara initially, but after having to be partners with her in gym class and getting to know Barbara better, Deenie decides that she was silly to have judged Barbara solely because of her eczema.
  • Susan Minton — a classmate of Deenie's who idolizes her and copies her style, including the rage-induced jagged haircut Deenie gives herself after seeing herself in her new back brace.
  • Eileen Rappoport — Deenie's gym teacher. She notices that something is strange about Deenie's posture, and her phone call to the Fenner home regarding this leads to Deenie eventually being diagnosed with scoliosis.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]