I’m not usually one who enjoys comics or graphic novels. I did, however, enjoy Smile (Scholastic) quite a bit. The story moved along swiftly, making it easy for me to devour the book in one sitting. This was also aided by the likeability of the main character, Raina, whom I could not wait to see succeed.
While in sixth grade Raina knocks out her two front teeth and is forced to endure a whirlwind of crazy orthodontic adventures, all the while entering the treacherous preteen years. This story may not sound too interesting or original (a girl dealing with braces is a common trend in middle grade novels), but when I began reading Smile, I was pleasantly surprised. Raina’s experience with braces is far from what I’d expected. Not only was her accident a lot more serious than I’d assumed, but the way in which the doctors chose to repair the problem is one I never would’ve thought of.
What makes the idea even more interesting is that Raina’s story isn’t fictional. It is the true story of what happened to the author, Raina Telgemeier, during her childhood. This makes the book all the more intriguing and gives it an authentic feel.
Raina is a very relatable character and watching her experience the ups and downs of growing up was by far the highlight of the novel. The awkward experience of moving from a preteen to a teen and finding yourself is one any girl can sympathize with. I was cheering Raina on all the way and hoping for her to find the happiness she deserved, as well as a great group of friends. Her resilient, optimistic spirit throughout her horrendous ordeal helped to aid my connection with her and made me want to see her succeed even more.
In addition, the drawings that went along with the story were quite entertaining. They not only reflected the story well but also helped bring it to life, with a bit of comic relief. Raina’s experiences practically leapt off the page with each colorful illustration. They captured her feelings and the awkwardness of her experiences perfectly.
My only complaint about the drawings is that many of the minor characters look extremely similar, and it was hard to keep track of who was who and which friend Raina was talking with. I wouldn’t say it was a great hindrance to my enjoying the novel, but it definitely caused confusion on more than one occasion.
In the end, Smile is a heartwarming tale of one girl’s struggle to find herself with a great deal of dental drama, and I found myself smiling right along with Raina at the end.
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