Release Date: February 1, 2010
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.(courtesy of Goodreads)
*I'm actually posting a book review...what a concept. Getting back to normal post-BEA.
An adorable graphic novel about the trials and travails of an average girl growing up in the late 1980s. NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour recommended Raina's graphic novel Drama a few weeks ago. I'd seen her books around but never paid much attention. I still haven't read Drama, but I picked up Smile and was glad I did.
Smile is a very quick read. I don't think it took me more than 20-30 minutes to page through it. It's an autobiographical tale about a girl named Raina growing up in San Francisco. It starts around 1989 when Raina is going into the 6th grade and ends when she's in high school.
Poor Raina has a horrible accident that knocks out her two front teeth right before sixth grade. This starts off a multi-year dental and orthodontia journey. She has false teeth, braces to move teeth, regrowing teeth, and much more. It's a grisly process. In fact, I would not recommend a child nervous about braces or afraid of the dentist read this book. It would only make things worse.
As fascinating as Raina's dental nightmares were, it's only a front for the more important underlying story. And that underlying story isn't really a story at all. It's about growing up. Awful mean-girl friends, good friends, sibling relationships, parent relationships, school...everything about normal middle school life. It's the experience most girls went through during middle school. It's funny at some times and at other times hits almost too close to bad memories. But I liked it that way. Far more powerful.
I got so wrapped up in Raina's life that I often forgot I was reading a graphic novel. The drawings are well-done, a little on the cutesy side. They neither get in the way or nor take over the story.
I particularly enjoyed the time period: the late 1980s. Raina is about 3-4 years older than me. Due to the age difference, I was too young to really get into many of the pop-culture things referenced in the book, but I was aware of them. It made the book a fun trip down memory lane.
I highly recommend Smile. It's a funny, poignant, painful read about growing up. It's appropriate for anyone age 10 and up. It has a juvenile feel that may not appeal to older teens, but I actually think they'd appreciate the story better than younger teens. A delightful book.
Rating: 4 / 5
Here's How to Buy the Book!