Smile by Raina Telgemeier
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Cindy: 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??