Review | Smile

Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth, and what follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there’s still more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friends who turn out to be not so friendly. This coming-of-age true story is sure to resonate with anyone who has ever been in middle school, and especially those who have ever had a bit of their own dental drama.

Reasons for Reading:

Books by Raina Telgemeier are so very popular with young readers. Our copies at the library are consistently requested for holds and go out on loan often. Smile is a graphic novel and this is not a genre that has ever really appealed to me, even as a child. I have always preferred to read traditional novels, getting lost in the text and description, without wanting graphics and photos and captions to tell me the story. But I decided it was time for me to see what the hype was about in this series. I’m also taking it as a professional goal to read more middle grade fiction in an effort to understand young readers better.

My Thoughts:

I really really enjoyed it! I had no idea that this story was autobiographical so that immediately increased my interest when I started reading. It is set in the early 90’s so I got a lot of the pop culture references that were included. I also had braces when I was around the age of 12 to about age 14. And I didn’t only have them once, I had them twice! Along with a slew of issues with the spacing of my top teeth,I had to wear a retainer for a period of time. Now as an adult I have a permanent metal piece on the back of my top two front teeth so that they stay in place. Reading this book, I could identify with Raina’s struggles with braces and her teeth. It definitely can play a toll on your confidence, and it certainly didn’t help matters for me. I had braces, glasses, and I was overweight. Plus I was the tallest girl in my class! I think you can also feel excluded from your peers if you are the only one with braces. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one with braces in my grade. Overall, having braces can make the already tumultuous time of adolescence even more of a struggle.

The book is funny as the humour is enjoyable.The graphics are vivid and engaging too, I zipped through reading it and before I was even finished I had placed a hold on two other books by the author, Sisters and Guts (out Sept 2019). It’s relatable. It has a good message. It deals with issues of self-confidence, peer pressure, friendships (good and bad ones), boys & crushes, and school life. It is wide-ranging and clearly that helps make it appealing to many. I felt it was a joy to read! Plus it gave me insight into why this book is popular for young readers.

Rating: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: It was perfect and I loved it completely!

I’d Recommend This Book If:

  • You enjoy graphic novels for middle grade readers
  • You can relate to a female protagonist who struggles with self-esteem, finding true friendships, and self-esteem during the ages of 12-14 years.
  • You have had braces and can relate to that experience
  • You want to read autobiographical fiction (which I didn’t even know was a thing!)