Monday, February 15, 2021

Middle Grade Monday: Smile, by Raina Telgemeier



Title: Smile
Author: Raina Telgemeier
Publication Info: Scholastic, 2010. 224 pages, graphic novel
Source: Library digital resources
Publisher’s Blurb:
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, and 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 coming-of-age true story is sure to resonate with anyone who has ever been in middle school, and especially those who have ever had a bit of their own dental drama.

My Review:
I didn't get my braces until I was in my late 30s and my second son was a baby, so I didn't exactly relate to some of the issues Raina faced (though I do remember some non-trivial pain, and I didn't have any traumatic injuries to my teeth!). But as always, the underlying issue of the middle-school struggle to find your place and your friends resonates. In fact, that is the real meat of this book. 
Yes, it's good for kids to read it and see that braces (or whatever makes them different) aren't the end of the world. But for me the best moment in the book is when, as a high school freshman, she finally lets the rather toxic batch of friends (or "friends") she's been with since grade school know what she thinks of the torment they dish out and excuse as "fun." I could only wish she'd done it sooner, but who among us has managed that?

Smile is the first of three graphic novels Telgemeier wrote about her own growing-up years. I have read all three (the others are Sisters and Guts), though I don't appear to have reviewed the others. I can recommend the whole series as good books for anyone struggling with being a "tween"--or who remembers the pain of that age!

My Recommendation:
As noted, I recommend this book and this series, maybe especially for girls, since the issues Raina deals with are many of them (no surprise) particular to girls. But I'll bet the worry over appearance, bullying, and struggles to find a place to fit in are not gender-specific, and it wouldn't hurt the boys to read this, too.

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed an electronic copy of Smile from my library, and received nothing from the author or the publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  



  1. I remember the awful years of having braces. I wore my headgear as much as possible to get them off quicker. This sounds like a great start to a series that kids will relate to.

  2. I was lucky - never had them. But I had other things that made me feel awful :)

    1. Ditto! I didn't need braces to feel like an outcast in middle school! A lot of what Telgemeier writes about that period in her life rings very true for me.


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