Smile

Smile is a graphic novel about a teenage girl, dental issues, and all the things she faces while getting her teeth the care they need.  The book is reviewed by Melissa Y. at Sweet on Books.

What you need to know:

• A terrific graphic novel with all the elements of a traditional novel: well-developed characters, great story,
multi-faceted plots with honest adolescent situations; all handled with care.
• If you are not on board with graphic novels, maybe you think they aren’t serious enough for your reader, think again
and pick up Smile!
• Please don’t confuse a graphic novel with a comic book. This is a compelling, coming of age story told through story
and pictures.
• I gave this book an Independent Reader Jr. rating because it has adolescent middle school issues, not applicable
for younger children.

Sweet Book Summary:

Our main character, Raina, is also our author. While it is never called an autobiography, it apparently is, and poor Raina Telgemeier went through some major dental trauma during middle school and early high school, a traumatic time of life as it is. I started this book, interestingly enough, while I was waiting to have my teeth cleaned! While in hindsight it is glaringly obvious that it’s going to be about teeth (see cover), I was still a little excited about the synchronicity of it all.

Raina knocked out two front teeth while racing some friends from the car to the front door. Ouch. The dentist reinserted her front teeth, but they went up too far and they ended up looking like baby teeth: not a good look in middle school. Root canals, braces, extractions and headgears follow. But while the obvious storyline is Raina’s dental woes, the subplots are much juicier. It’s all about Raina’s friendships, crushes, worries, anxieties and maturity or lack of it. Raina has a group of friends in middle school that as a group are the absolute definition of that old “with friends like these, who needs enemies” saying. These girls are awful to her! Raina put up with it for years until she finally snapped and told them to buzz off. Her life got markedly better once she made the decision to respect herself and her interests, and not let friends decide how she feels. And, unsurprisingly, once she let go of these so-called friends, she found some real friends and some real happiness.

My ten year old daughter has read this book twice so far, and as long as I leave it lying around, will read it many more times I am sure. I think nine/ten is probably the youngest that will benefit from this story: any younger and the issues will make no sense. But I love it for tweens because the message is very positive. Raina was able to stand up for herself and good things followed. Our young girls (and boys!) can’t hear this message enough.

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