Smile, by Raina Telgemeier

BOOK REVIEW, June 2010, by Jenny McWha


by Raina Telgemeier

Hey GCDA readers, this month I thought I would introduce you to a book that encompasses not one but two things I’ve never reviewed. Wonder what it could be?

The book, Smile, is an autobiography that also happens to be in the form of a graphic novel! It tells the story of author/illustrator Raina Telgemeier, as she navigates the ups and downs of middle and high school. She tells of the crushes, friend drama and homework, all tied together with her tale of dental woe. It all starts after an accident knocks out her two front teeth, after which follows years of dentists, orthodontists, peradontists, braces, fake teeth, and retainers. Sound familiar? I know I had to go through four years of braces (when it was really supposed to be two!), and I’m sure a lot of you either will have braces, have them now, or had them at one point. You know how awful they can be.

Most likely like a lot of you, I don’t have a lot of experience with graphic novels (shocking, I know!). This is my second one EVER, and the first one made me a little wary of stories through pictures. That was before I picked up SMILE and read it within the space of a couple days! The pictures are great and colourful, the storyline is easy to follow, and Raina’s life (and work), were an overall joy to experience.

For anyone who has never read a graphic novel before, I wholeheartedly suggest you start with Smile. It is such a nice introduction to the genre, and I’m sure people of any age will find something to love about it.

The Good: One of the things I loved about Smile was how relatable it was. The author must have an amazing memory, because she captures what it is like to be a teenage girl so well. As I read the book I just kept thinking “I remember that!” Anything from how much braces hurt when you first put them on, to how quickly a crush can turn to pure indifference, to how awkward it is when you and your friends go through puberty. I felt like someone had reached in and grabbed my heart when Raina realized that her friends’ constant teasing of her was not right, and decided to leave the group. I think everyone has to go through that decision at some point, and the book provides a very good option for how to deal with it. There were also funny moments, like Raina thinking she is too old to see a Disney movie but totally falling in love with it (we all do it). For any kids of the late 80s or early 90s, there’s also some very recognizable pop-culture references, like New Kids on the Block and retro Nintendo consoles. It felt so nostalgic! But all in all, Smile is a great story about finding yourself.

Downside: I really enjoyed this book and couldn’t really find much wrong with it. If you’re not into graphic novels I would really encourage you to try this—it really opened my eyes to the genre and was a fairly easy and enjoyable read. I also found there were a lot of characters; I often couldn’t keep Raina’s very large group of friends straight. Also, don’t believe Raina’s description of high school assignments; I swear I didn’t have to write a ten-page essay until university!

Anyone can read and enjoy this!

Genre: Graphic, humour, fiction.

Other Books: I don’t have a lot of experience with graphic novels. However, I do know Twilight has been adapted into a graphic novel, and Raina Telgemeier herself has adapted and illustrated graphic novels of The Baby Sitters Club! If you guys know of any other good ones, please mention them in a comment!

Rating: Two thumbs up!

~ Jenny


I luv this book! I picked it up after my teeth got all messed up, and its been my fave book forever.
love this book
omgoshi luv luv luv this book ive read it like 17 times
love this book!
Ohhh Maaaa Goshhh , Thizz Book Iss Ahhhh-MAzinqq.! ( :
love this book :)
I loved this book! It was soo funny!
GREAT BOOK! I read in 1 day! It truly captures the moment of a teenage girl. As a current girl scout who plays the flute, has braces it was very inspirational!
i wanna read it!!!!!!
wowwwwww love the book raina
awesomme book
Raina i love your book Smile!!!! And the Baby Sitter's Club
Melanie's biggest fan
The best!!! so funny!!

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