Friday, May 27, 2016

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Summary from Goodreads:
Raina Telgemeier's #1 New York Times bestselling, Eisner Award-winning graphic memoir based on her childhood!

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. 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 was a re-read for me. I read it for the first time in a bookstore. I read it so fast. I remember thinking, “Wow. Why aren’t there more graphic novels like this?” That was probably 5 or so years ago. Enough time has gone by that it felt almost like I was reading it for the first time. And, I have to say, I feel almost exactly the same way. Why aren’t there more books like this?
Telgemeier seriously captures all the awkward, terrible moments of middle school. But, she does it in a way that isn’t painful to read and reflect on. She does it in a way that makes you smile and think, “oh yeah.”
The illustrations are great. It’s easy to read for people who have not read comics or graphic novels before. Everything is rather linear. It’s bright, colorful, and full of emotion that I don’t always see come across in graphic novels.
I also loved the topics this story covered. It certainly covered plenty of image problems. But on top of that, Raina has crushes, mean friends, new friends, sibling arguments, school dances, Valentines, band rehearsals, failed sports tryouts, etc. It felt real. I could see a kid/teen really doing all the things Raina did –which makes sense because it is autobiographical. I can see this “realness” being a major appeal to young readers.
I love that its specifically aimed for middle school girls. There aren’t many graphic novels that are. I also love the teeth drama. Poor Raina suffers through so much pain, surgery, and orthodontics. I related to this as well. I had braces, retainers, and expanders at this age too. I can’t imagine also loosing my two front teeth. There’s only so much one can be expected to bare in middle school.
I like that Raina defends herself to her cruel friends. She eventually learns she’d rather be by herself or meet new friends then be around her old ones. This was powerful too. I’ve been in that situation in middle school and high school, and it’s so hard to actually leave friends. So hard to think of spending lunch by yourself. But, she does it and it’s such a great moment in the book for me. I also like that she doesn’t just have one crush. It’s okay to like more than one boy forever.
I loved the story. I loved the art. I loved the intended audience of this story. I loved how real it all felt. And I do still wish there were more graphic novels out there like this one. It was first published 6 years ago. I mean come on already. More girl graphic novels, please.  I give it a 9/10.

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