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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

How to Rock
Braces and Glasses


by
Meg Haston


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase How to Rock Braces and Glasses



Title: How to Rock Braces and Glasses
Author: Meg Haston
Genre: Novel
Written: 2011
Length: 294 pages
Availability: How to Rock Braces and Glasses - US
How to Rock Braces and Glasses - UK
How to Rock Braces and Glasses - Canada
How to Rock Braces and Glasses - India
  • How to Rock Braces and Glasses is being made into a Nickelodeon TV-series, How to Rock, starring Cymphonique Miller

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Our Assessment:

B- : breezy read, but simplistic and unconvincing

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Kirkus Reviews . 15/7/2011 .
Publishers Weekly . 1/8/2011 .


  From the Reviews:
  • "Despite the book's ostensible stance against meanness, Kacey regains her social standing largely by bullying and manipulating her old friends, and the notion that glasses and braces must always spell social ruin is left unquestioned." - Kirkus Reviews

  • "As Haston, in her first YA novel, traces Kasey's painful tumble down the popularity hill, she offers some clever dialogue and important life lessons, but the contrived plot and predictable outcome feel less than genuine. Readers may have trouble warming up to the arrogant heroine and grow impatient waiting for her to be as brutally honest about her own weaknesses as she is about others' flaws." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       How to Rock Braces and Glasses is narrated by Kacey Simon, a queen bee thirteen-year-old eighth grader who dishes out sharp and pointed advice on her weekly segment, Simon Says, on her Chicago school's in-house TV show. She has the starring role in the school musical and thinks that too is nothing less than her due. Then her world collapses around her, as she gets hit by a one-two punch that plunges her to the bottom of the social totem pole.
       Kacey recently got violet-colored contact lenses, but she apparently hasn't been using the accompanying eyedrops as instructed, and a trip to the eye doctor leads to her having to replace the cool violet contacts with a distinctly uncool pair of glasses. Her refusal to wear those glasses at the next big social occasion quickly lands her at the next doctor's office -- her dentist -- with a chipped molar, and then, upon further investigation, the last diagnosis she wants to hear: "You need braces".
       In fact:

     "Due to the placement of your wisdom teeth, Invisalign isn't an option," Dr.Haussman said from somewhere far away. "You'll need braces, plus a night retainer and headgear."
       And it doesn't take any more than his command to: "Open wide" to get all that slapped on, and her plunge in popularity to be assured.
       The braces cause a wicked lisp and instant fall from grace. Before she knows it, there's a YouTube video of her in circulation, broadcasting her humiliation to the world. And she's deemed unfit for the musical role, and her understudy takes over her role.
       Kacey has her eyes set on her former co-star, Quinn, but suddenly there's also a new guy in town, Zander. He has his own band, Hard Rock Life -- and, impressed by Kacey's voice (and apparently indifferent to her lisp) he invites her to become their lead singer. She doesn't immediately take up the offer, but class president and ambitious politician Paige, a friend Kacey ditched a few years earlier because she wasn't nearly cool enough, sees an opportunity here -- demanding in exchange for masterminding Kacey's comeback that once-again popular Kacey then officially endorse her in the next election.
       By setting up her nemesis, Molly, with the cool new kid with the band Kacey can reestablish herself -- but at what cost ? Yes, Kacey learns some lessons along the way -- but the motto she and Paige settle on is: "Fake it till I make it", and between all the manipulation and lies Kacey eventually finds she isn't entirely pleased with how things go. Straight arrows Zander and Paige are the ones most willing to accept her for who she is, but in her desire to regain her position in the school pecking order she just can't quite bring herself to completely see and accept that, as she continues to be seduced by the idea of having her old gang (and the rest of the school) look up to her the way they used to.
       Haston captures Kacey's voice (and lisp) nicely, though the character isn't entirely believable, getting so caught up in her machinations that she can't see what's obvious; even by YA fiction standards, Kacey takes way too long before seeing even a glimmer of the light. The small touches around the edges, such as the family scenes (Kacey has a younger sister, and an absent father), are quite well done, and there's decent wit in the mean-girl conflicts, but Kacey's self-absorption might be trying for readers who will be hard-pressed to relate to her.
       Disappointingly, How to Rock Braces and Glasses offers only small comfort to those in a similar age-group who might be facing similar self-doubt, especially when it's exacerbated by glasses and braces. Kacey's new-found lisp is the biggest problem she faces, and Haston does use that amusingly and well -- but even if that (initially) keeps her from her starring role, Zander doesn't even think it's an issue when he asks her to front the band (surely an absurd idea). Kacey wakes up once -- after the first night -- with her headgear, but after that it doesn't even rate a mention, not even when she goes on a sleepover or wakes up on another occasion, and the "night retainer" her dentist said she needed doesn't appear at all. As to the glasses -- well, in the end she can take or leave them, as she pleases; it's no wonder the TV adaptation is only titled How to Rock.
       At least How to Rock Braces and Glasses doesn't have a completely storybook ending, though one suspects that is simply in order to leave it sequel-ready. Haston has a sharp pen, but with her very talented protagonist largely only making things difficult for herself Kacey isn't too easy to either sympathize or identify with. There are also too many absurdities to the plot: middle-school machinations can be overthought and silly, but many of the ones here are particularly hard to credit, as are some of the relationships, arising almost instantly and with little credible (and, in some cases, entirely incredible) foundation. The book also sends some odd messages, especially with regard to the constant manipulations and untruths -- standard middle-school behavior, perhaps, but surely there should be some more consequences to it here.
       How to Rock Braces and Glasses does have entertainment value, and some very funny scenes, but muddled Kacey's roller coaster ride between gaining self-awareness and being completely oblivious is too extreme to convince.

- M.A.Orthofer, 10 November 2011

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Links:

How to Rock Braces and Glasses: Reviews: How to Rock - the TV series: Meg Haston: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Meg Haston is an American author.

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© 2011 the complete review

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