I loved Smile. This graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier is so nicely done that it’s hard to know where to begin. The non-fictional story of Raina herself as a sixth grader, whose teeth are are severely damaged in a running accident, unfolds at a perfect pace and through her artwork and storytelling, we come to care for Raina as she dives into adolescence marked by dental surgery.
Of course, Smile is more than that.
It’s also the story of a girl trying to fit in, trying to make sense of shifting friendships, dealing with the pain of periodic surgery, surviving an earthquake, and worrying all the time of how her looks (with braces, and with fake teeth, and more) might make her so different that she will never be accepted as a regular kid. Oh, and throw in a mad crush on an older boy who barely notices her, and you have a “coming of age” graphic novel that is very touching and compassionate.
What works so well is Telgemeier’s writing and art, as they come together with wisdom and lead us in the end not to some dramatic moment or plot twist, but instead, to the understanding that our path through life takes us in many directions, and leads us towards many friendships (some that last, some that don’t), and we need to keep our head up, stay positive, and smile.
I can’t wait to put Smile into the hands of some of my girl readers. They are going to love it.
Peace (with a big fat grin),
PS — Smile began as a serial webcomic by Telgemeier and it is still available online. I prefer the book format.
PSS — On a personal note, my youngest son fell on some rocks in Maine two years ago and we are still dealing with the dental aftermath of that accident. The story here connected with our experience, even though he is still quite young. It was interesting, though, how Raina’s story resonated with ours. And she came out smiling. He has, too. (but it has cost us a pretty penny and will continue, too.)