Rachel Hruza’s first published novel has a hefty title.
At first, she worried about that.
Maybe readers would think “Dear Isaac Newton, You’re Ruining My Life” would delve more deeply into the science behind apples falling to the ground.
Or be a series of broken-hearted love letters to the long-dead Englishman.
But the 346-page novel (originally titled “Back Words”) isn’t about physics, nor is it an ode to Newton and his Laws.
It’s a book about the way gravity felt to Truth Trendon. The gravity of wearing a back brace when you’re a middle school girl worried about fitting in.
“I hate Isaac Newton,” the book begins. “The moment that apple fell from the tree and he thought up gravity was the moment my body was doomed.”
Hruza is 32. She teaches English and composition at Southeast Community College in Milford. She’s married and expecting a baby girl in November.
Her grandmother has scoliosis and her mom has scoliosis and her brother has scoliosis and her twin sister has scoliosis.
And Hruza still has the plastic brace she wore for three of her teenage years in Wayne. The brace that kept the curve of her back from getting worse until she had surgery in college.
The brace she tried to hide under oversized shirts and baggy pants. “Luckily for me, fashion at that time sort of allowed for that.”
That brace seems smaller now, the author says.
But back in sixth grade, it felt like she was entering a diving bell when she slipped into it, the Velcro straps that pushed the brace into her shoulder bones and her hip bones and rib cage.
She transmits that feeling in her book. The “hulking, white monstrosity” that left her “trapped in my own insulated plastic sauna” walking around in an “enormous eyesore.”
She lived part of the novel, Hruza says, but much of it — the characters built around Truth, her siblings and friends and crush on the cute boy in band class — is fiction.
“Part of me never wanted to write it,” she says. “It was a self-conscious time, concerned with what people would think of me.”
But when she did, she pulled from her past for its essence: “I tried to think of the emotions I went through then and try to bring them out for young readers.”
And reviewers took note.
On Kirkus: “All of the drama and self-centeredness of adolescence are here ...”
On Good Reads: “As someone who has scoliosis and wore a back brace in junior high, this touching and quick-witted story is a highlight to read ...”
On Girls' Life: “A compelling middle-school tale that captures the realities of living with scoliosis while maintaining the realistic drama of everyday life.”
From her twin sister, Sarah Messerli: “Maybe I’m biased, but I feel like I can just visualize what she writes ... she captures that age group very well.”
And: “She’s also funny.”
I can confirm that. (Read for yourself; Hruza is signing copies of “Dear Isaac Newton” from 2-3 p.m. Sunday at Barnes & Noble at SouthPointe Pavilions.)
The woman who grew up writing is pleased with her novel’s reception. She’s been speaking at middle schools; getting good feedback from Curvy Girls, a scoliosis support network.
And making the pages of Girls' Life — a favorite from her growing up years — was a bonus.
The magazine’s review ends with questions for its young female readers: Do you have a secret you keep close to your chest? How do you deal?
A curve in a young girl’s back was the vehicle for Hruza’s book, but it might have been anything that makes a girl feel different during a time in her life when all she wants to do is fit in with her peers.
Her book's heroine is strong, Hruza says. Stronger than she was.
“Having time away from it and growing up, you figure out what you thought mattered back then mattered, but not nearly as much as you thought it did.”