Smile by Raina Telgemeier

smileCindy: Here’s a graphic novel memoir that teenage girls can really sink their teeth into. Smile (Scholastic, 2010) is the story of the author’s teen experience with extended dental care. Raina’s initial orthodontic work is interrupted when she trips while running and loses one tooth and smashes the other up into her gum. The ensuing treatment is described with doses of humor to soothe the pain and embarrassment. It’s bad enough to be a teen girl, let alone one who is called “vampire” because the initial treatment backfired in an unfortunate way. I have a special affection for this book. My two front teeth were knocked out when I was 12, in a pool accident. I was called “vampire” for a few days until temporary caps masked the pointed triangles that my front teeth had become.I’m thankful I didn’t have to endure all the treatment that Telgemeier did. There’s more than dentists at work here, though; Raina illustrates the pain of changing friendships, unrequited love, and the other traumas of teendom. Like her teeth, these elements all come together by the end and the smiles are big.

Lynn: Oh boy does this book bring back memories even after all these years! The illustrations of the dentist tightening Raina’s braces with the accompanying sound effects of “Yank, Twist, Shove, Pull, Scrape!” sent twinges all through my teeth in sympathy. Raina’s dental adventures are more extreme than most but young braces wearers, male and female, will see their own experiences in the pages.

These toothy misadventures are so well done and so welcome. But my favorite part of this book is the well-integrated story of how a self-conscious youngster grows into a confident teen. Raina’s insecurity caused her to allow her “friends” to be cruel to her for years until she finally stood up to them. The representation of that oh so common “teasing” that is in reality bullying and its impact is a terrific part of Raina’s journey and I was cheering for her success.  Carmel apple anyone??



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

7 Comments on "Smile by Raina Telgemeier"

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  1.' Brigid says:

    I’m trying to augment our graphic novel collection. Much of what we currently have is geared toward boys. I’m going to look into purchasing this book because it will appeal to a different demographic and hits on some issues with which our preteen girls struggle.

  2.' kool me says:

    awesome best book in thw whole wide world it should be a series

  3.' kool me says:

    have to say she is like awesome

    YOU GO GIRL!!!

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