Author: Raina Telgemeier
Genre: Graphic Novel, Young Adult/Middle Grade
Publication Year: 2010
Smile follows a young girl named Raina who one day, on her way home from a Girl Scouts meeting, trips over in her front lawn and breaks two of her front teeth. As she grows up, from an eleven-year old girl to a seventeen-year old teen, she has to face all the challenges puberty, middle school and high school entail and dental drama.
Despite being one of the last books I read in 2016, it was one of my favorites.
First of all, can we talk about how amazingly cool Telgemeier’s art is? The drawings were so well made, with just enough attention to detail to give the story more depth but not too much detail as to distract the reader from the story line. The illustrator who colored the vignettes should also get a shout out, thank you Stephanie Yue, for making them so nostalgic and very eye-friendly with their pastels and soft colors.
Another thing I really liked was how real Raina (the main character) felt. This is a true selling point, in a coming of age type narrative the character has to feel real, otherwise how am I supposed to create a bond with her and care for the changes she undergoes? Raina’s problems felt incredibly real. I dare say that most Western teenage girls went through the ups and downs of Raina’s journey during their “formative years” (I feel like my grandmother using this expression), even if they didn’t have braces. Just switch out the braces for glasses, a chubbier or skinnier frame, just to name a few. From dealing with unsupportive friends to dealing with self-love, we’ve probably all been there.
I ended up giving this book 4 stars instead of 5 because it should have been much longer. I feel like the author should have explored Raina’s character more towards her late teens, I would have loved the issue of periods, sex and just her overall relationship with womanhood be discussed. But, in the writer’s deffence, I do understand why she chose to keep these things out: it’s a book marketed towards younger audiences (which leads me to another topic: should we teach young girls and boys more about the female experience? YES, but that’s something for another day).
All in all, this is a very fast read. I read it in one sitting and never got bored (which I sometimes do). It’s a light read so definitely something great to read just before bedtime, on a train/car ride or when you just want to kill some time while having fun. I highly recommend it!