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Book Reviews, Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Graphic Novel, Middle Grade Readers, Young Adult Readers

SMILE By Raina Telgemeier

By Raina TelgemeierSmile is a quick and entertaining read.  Of the graphic novels I have read (which, unfortunately are not very many yet) Smile is easily one of my favorites.  It tells the story of the author’s ordeal during her middle school and high school years with dentists, orthodontists, periodontists–and some other kinds of “–dontists” I didn’t even know existed.

When she reached sixth grade Raina knew she was going to have to get braces.  Unfortunately, while running with her friends in a race to reach her front door (how many of us haven’t done that?) Raina falls and knocks out her two front teeth.  With some emergency dental work they are able to put her front teeth back in.  When they take the bandages off, however, they discover her two front teeth are up considerably higher than the rest of the teeth.  This results in a kind of “vampire” look.

This is only the beginning of Raina’s ordeal.  She will get braces on and off twice, go through surgeries and feel embarrassed about the way she looks–especially when she smiles.  Anybody who has ever had braces–or any other kind of major dental work will be able to identify with Raina and all the feelings of physical and emotional pain that go along with it.

Her descriptions of braces–how they work and how it feels in your mouth AS they work–are spot on.  I KNOW.  I WAS THERE TOO! Raina’s story took me back to sitting in that chair, having wires tightened,mouth aching, feeling freakish and not wanting to smile.  (I, too, went for 10 years without smiling in a school picture.)

Raina tells the reader in a short afterword that she wanted to tell her story because it’s important to know that when you are struggling to figure out who you are, it’s nice to know someone else struggled too–and found themselves in spite of what other people might say or think.  Learning to be ourselves is often a challenge at different points in our lives, but probably mostly during those years in middle and high school.

Raina’s tale is one of reassurance, humor and hope.  A quick read with marvelously rich illustrations and  a text that is precise and easy to understand, Smile is a great independent read for anyone ages 9 and up.

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