I might have a bit of a crush on Raina Telgemeier. First she wooed me with her graphic novels of The Babysitters Club. Then I visited her website and she seemed so sweet and charming and nice. THEN I read SMILE and nearly died. Of sweetness and relatability and nodding my head saying YES ORTHODONTISTS CAN BE SO MEAN ABOUT THAT CAN'T THEY.
Basically, the book is a dental memoir detailing the horror that Raina went through in her youth when she tripped and ended up knocking out and injuring her front teeth. In Smile, she recounts the dental casts, the pink marshmallow gunk molds (aren't those AWFUL, the way they make you hold them in there for juuuust long enough so that you're milliseconds away from gagging?), braces, retainers with false teeth attached, headgear, and MORE braces. All this while she's transitioning from middle to high school, dealing with her "friends", and trying to figure out boys.
Publishers Weekly says it best: "A charming addition to the body of young adult literature that focuses on the trials and tribulations of the slightly nerdy girl... Like heroines stretching from Madeleine L'Engle's Vicky Austin through Judy Blume's Margaret to Mariko and Jillian Tamaki's Skim, Raina must navigate the confusing world of adolescence while keeping her sense of self intact. Many of her experiences are familiar, from unrequited crushes to betrayals by friends to embarrassing fashion choices. The dramatic story of her teeth, however, adds a fresh twist, as does her family's experience during the San Francisco earthquake in 1989...Telgemeier [is] deft at illustrating her characters' emotions in a dynamic, playful style. This book should appeal to tweens looking for a story that reflects their fears and experiences and gives them hope that things get easier."
The thing I loved about Smile is that Raina is a totally likable character and anyone who's ever gone through orthodontia will relate to the fear, the frustration, the pain, and the humiliations associated with it.
(images from GoRaina.com)
Personally, this week was the perfect week to read Smile. I went through six years of orthodontia as a tween/teen, which involved having four teeth pulled, then getting braces, then getting a retainer that made me talk like Shelly from South Park for a while, then getting braces a second time (my mom tells me this was all part of the plan from the beginning, but I swear up and down nobody told me that, so when I found out I had to get them a second time, I was...needless to say NOT PLEASED). I'm 25 now, and my bottom teeth still are a liiiittle funky, but luckily that doesn't show when I smile (but that doesn't mean I'm not self conscious about it). Oh, and I still ended up with some smoker-like staining on my front tooth, probably due to fluoride or antibiotics as a kid. I sort of feel like I went through all of that for six years and am still...self conscious in the smile department. But I will say that Telgemeier's book can put that sort of thing in perspective. Also, since I sucked it up and went to the dentist this week for the first time in an embarrassing amount of time (because after six years of orthodontia, you sort of hate even the thought of voluntarily going anywhere near people who say something won't hurt but that ultimately results in blood in your mouth)...and for the first time since I can remember, I got a "Perfect!" instead of "Hmmmm, this is all wrong." So I guess that's something to smile about, smoker-like-even-though-I-don't-smoke-*sob* stain and little crooked bottom teeth and all. In short though, I wish wish wish Smile had been around when I was a braces-clad tween.
But anyway. Back to Telgemeier. Now that I am officially in love with her and want to devour all of her work, it's good to know that I can pre-order her book DRAMA on Amazon!