Monday, September 12, 2011

Review: Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Reviewed by Liesl

Published: 2010

It's about: An autobiographical graphic memoir detailing Raina Telgemeier's life from 6th grade to 9th grade. When she was in 6th grade, Telgemeier tripped while chasing a friend and knocked out her two front teeth. Ouch. The following years she had to go through torturous dental procedures in order to fix her teeth, what with braces, headgear, gum problems, false teeth, root canals, realignment of her upper teeth, and that's just the teeth. She also deals with social problems with her friends and encounters with crushes and earthquakes, but Raina survives and lives to tell the tale.

I thought: Smile is the book I wish I had read when I was back in junior high. When I was 10, I actually knocked out my own two front teeth, but I'm very lucky I never had to go through what she went through. Still, I identified with many of the issues she had with her friends and found that we had many things in common. It's very refreshing to read a book with a female protagonist that didn't get the guy, but still triumphed through all her troubles.

The art tells the story here, which is what it should. The character's expressions are absolutely fantastic and the teenage world of San Francisco in the late 80's and early 90's is created well. The craftsmanship is excellent. Telgemeier really knows how to draw and her chapters transition smoothly from one phase of life to the next. She captured the angst of a teenage girl and still managed to add enough humor to get us through the painful parts.

One particularly poignant scene stood out to me where she finally stood up to her so-called friends and broke things off with them and moved on with her life and delved into her own interests and made new, better, and more supportive friends. I admire Raina's bravery and self-respect. I often look back at junior high and high school and wish I didn't care so much what people thought and wonder what would have happened had I opened my mouth.

Something I love the most about this book - well, maybe it's just Raina Telgemeier - is the power of storytelling through comics, even stories from your own life. On her website she has other mini-comics she drew, which has inspired me to draw even more, and perhaps tell my own stories through that medium someday.

Verdict: Please, stick it on the shelf.

Reading Recommendations: Give it a whirl. Anyone. Give it to your kid. Give it to your mom. Just read it.

Warnings: Hmmm, a swearword maybe? I don't know. Nothing, honestly.

Favorite excerpts:

What I'm reading next: The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi