How to Rock Braces and Glasses. by Meg Haston. September 5, 2011. Poppy. 304 pages. ISBN: 9780316068253
Kacey Simon, the protagonist in Meg Haston’s How to Rock Braces and Glasses, is the queen bee of her social group, and of her entire middle school. As the host of her own television show on her school’s network, she gives harsh, to the point advice to her classmates on everything from fashion to dating, which makes her the most famous - and possibly the most hated - person in her class. Kacey’s reputation takes a hit, though. when she develops an eye infection and learns she must wear glasses. Things go from bad to worse when she also ends up getting braces. Before long, hardly anyone is speaking to Kacey, and the friends she has always treated as minions abandon her to pursue their own greatness. It will take the ingenuity and kind honesty of an old friend to help Kacey get her life back.
My biggest problem with this book was my relationship with the main character. Generally speaking, I don’t think it’s fair to judge a book based on whether I personally like a character or agree with her actions. Kacey is obviously a “mean girl” and though I’m not crazy about “mean girl” characters, I can usually relate to them, especially when they are first-person narrators and I am privy to all their thoughts. My issue with Kacey, though, is that I couldn’t find anything that any reader might like about her. She’s mean and shallow, and for most of the book, almost until the very end, not much else. She becomes interesting at certain points, but I really wonder how many tween readers would stick with the book long enough to see that happen.
Another issue that constantly stuck in the back of my mind was the assumption that braces and glasses are such destructive forces in a middle school student’s life. I knew lots of kids in middle school who wore glasses, braces, or both, and they were in all cliques across the board. Kids get teased for those kinds of things on sitcoms and in series fiction, but I don’t think it rings very true for real kids in real life. Middle school kids can be cruel about a lot of things, but I’ve never seen a situation where braces and glasses created such a problem for one kid.
Finally, I was completely confused by the lack of adults in this book. I think there may have been one teacher involved in the plot, but because he was called by his first name, I thought he was a student until almost the end of the book. The students in Kacey’s middle school seem to exist in this vacuum where they make the rules and they’re free to do whatever they want. This may have been a device to make it possible for Kacey to be so consistently mean, but it didn’t work for me, and I suspect it won’t work for most readers.
How to Rock Braces and Glasses has been adapted for TV, and will premiere with the title How to Rock on Nickelodeon in Spring 2012. I think Kacey might be a little easier to stomach at a distance, so perhaps portraying her in a humorous light on television will work better than trying to sell tween readers on her repugnant personality in print. There are so many middle school stories out there that take on the issue of popularity in a thoughtful and up-to-date way instead of falling back on stereotypes and inaccurate misconceptions about adolescence. I’d recommend checking out Nerd Girls, Mission Unpopular, and Fake Me A Match for easier to swallow protagonists tackling the same issues.
I borrowed How to Rock Braces and Glasses from my local public library.