Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Monday, October 4, 2010

Smile

by Raina Telgemeier
graphic novel/memoir
224 pages


I think I just found my favorite graphic memoir.


*** About the Book ***
Smile
When Raina was in the 6th grade she tripped and fell and knocked out her 2 front teeth.  Over the next 4 years she went though a whole slew of dental procedures to get her smile back.  After telling people her crazy story for years she decided to make it into a weekly web comic, which was later compiled into this book.  The story includes not only her dental issues but the typical issues of a tween/teen - boys, friends, acne, siblings, etc.


*** Why I Read It ***

This month my book club chose "graphic memoirs" as our theme.  Everyone chose a different book to read and at the meeting we shared our thoughts on the book and the genre.  One of the other gals read this book and said that it reminded her of growing up in the 1980s.  Since she and I are the same age I thought I'd give this one a try, so I took it home with me that night.


*** My Thoughts ***

Did you catch the first line of this review above?  I LOVED THIS BOOK! I started reading it when I got home from book club and devoured the entire thing before I fell asleep that night.

Let me remind you, dear readers, that until now I have not been all that impressed with the graphic book format. I've said before that although I did enjoy some of the ones I read, I wasn't really a convert to the genre.  After reading Smile, I just might have to revise that ...

My reasons for loving this are very personal.  Not in the "personal-meaning-private" way but in the "personal-meaning-individual-to-me" way.  I don't know if other readers would have the same experience I did so I'll share with you why I loved this book so much.

First, it's set in the late 1980s and/or early 1990s.  Raina reads The Baby Sitter Club books, plays Mario Brothers on the original Nintendo (and subscribes to Nintendo Power!), shops for lightning bolt earrings at Contempo, talks to her friends about New Kids on the Block, and so on.  These are all the things I did at her age! It was like revisiting my tween and teen years.

Second, when I was in the 3rd grade I was tripped in gym class and knocked out one of my brand new front teeth.  The part in the book where Raina is lying on the ground making sure she hasn't broken any bones? Been there, done that.  The part where she sits up and realizes there is blood dripping down her chin?  Been there, done that too.  And the part where she has her friends scavenging around in search of her tooth?  Oh yeah, I've done THAT too.  Thankfully the root of my tooth was intact and a sliver of it still protruded from the gum.  I had to have it bonded (another experience I share with Raina - she describes it very well) and for the most part it looked pretty normal.  It felt a bit thicker than my other front tooth but I got used to it.  It does have a tendency to yellow more than a real tooth though, so before I got married I had it rebonded.  It's been 12 years since then and it's definitely starting to show ... eventually I'll need a porcelain cap if I want it to match the rest of my teeth. ANYWAY, my point is that I really identified with Raina's experiences.

Third, Raina does a great job capturing the feeling of being a tween/teen.  She talks about her first crush, the way her "friends" tease her (they even pantsed her - another experience we share, except that when it happened to me it was done by a boy I had a crush on, and when my pants came down my underwear went with them - oh the horror!), the drama of acne, and so on.  It was so real for me.  I mean, of course it was REAL - this is Raina's real story after all - but it felt real as well.

And finally, I love the illustrations (which she did herself).  They have the feel of the Sunday comic section of the newspaper, if that makes sense.  The images move in standard comic strip logic, across the page from left to right and top to bottom.  That format works much better for me than the more creative layouts I've seen in other graphic novels/memoirs.

Oh, I just had to add that Kiddo started reading this one as well.  He saw it on the couch and read up to page 20 before he had to go to bed.  I think he wants to continue with it - what fun!


*** Your Thoughts ***

Ok, now that I've told you why I love this book so much (picture me actually hugging the book and you'll get the idea) it's your turn to chime in.  Have you read this one?  What did you think of it?  If you haven't read it, have you heard of it?  Are you interested in reading it?  Please share your thoughts.

16 comments:

Jennifer Schultz said...

Heather-I read this book several months ago (I'm a youth services librarian), and I loved it. Having had braces and glasses in middle school and part of high school (but not the extent that the author had), I certainly emphathizes with the book!

Trisha said...

Ah the late 80s...what a wonderful time. :) This sounds great. I never lost any teeth, but I definitely experienced embarrassment as a kid. Oh, do you remember how unbelievably horrified you were when you were embarrassed in public? It was so devastating.

GMR said...

Great review! Sounds like the book is a lot of fun...though the cover lends that thought to my passing eye as well. Certainly sounds like something I'll have to pick up one day as there are several "personal" experiences shared between us already! Babysitter's Club - read 'em, still have a few originals from then. NKOTB - loved them...still have some stuff from them too. Nintendo...it's boxed, but I have it. ^_^ Yep, child of the 80's...gotta love it. Thanks for sharing...and happy reading!

Erin said...

I haven't read or even heard of this book, but I'm glad you brought it to my attention! I don't usually read graphic anything, but the few graphic memoirs I've read I've really enjoyed. This one sounds like one I'd definitely enjoy...it's on my list. Thanks!

Heather J. said...

Jennifer - Glad to find another fan!

Trisha - Oh yes, I remember very clearly. I was literally the end of the world. LOL

GMR - Based on what you said, you would definitely enjoy this one!

Erin - It is such a fun book - I hope you get a chance to read it!

Melody Wilson said...

Thanks for the review! I haven't read any graphic memoirs, though I love graphic novels like "Watchmen." Can't wait to pick this one up!

bermudaonion said...

I'm a fan of graphic memoirs, so I suspect I'd love this one too.

softdrink said...

I've never even heard of this one! I didn't knock out any of my teeth, although I came close a few times...I have quite a few chips and cracks instead.

Alyce said...

I haven't broken any teeth, but I have had a ton of dental work done and I did grow up in the same time period, so I think I could really relate in that way.

Veens said...

I know when I was young, my cousin bro's front 2 teeth got knocked out because of me LOL! I will definitely add this to my wishlist. Sounds so much fun!

Heather J. said...

Melody - I hope you enjoy it!

bermudaonion - I suspect that you would. :)

softdrink - Thankfully that one incident was my only tooth trauma ...

Alyce - Yes, I think you'd like this one as well.

Veens - Ooh, that's not good! But you'll probably enjoy this book. LOL

fantaghiro23 said...

I'm a latecomer to the graphic memoir genre, too. So far, I've only read Persepolis. But since you mentioned the 80s in this memoir, I'm definitely interested.:) I've had my share of embarrassments during that decade, too. Thanks so much for telling us about this!

Bybee said...

Oh, I really want to read this book. My brother could definitely relate to your experiences. When he was btw. 3rd and 4th grade he adored Evel Knievel. One morning, he decided to jump a pile of cinders with his bicycle and when he came down, he slid in some of the same cinders and landed on his face and hand...broken front teeth (they'd been perfect) stitches in his lip and chin and hand. Constant trouble with his teeth...the military wouldn't bond them properly and instead gave him an ugly plug thing that always seemed to fall out right before picture day. As soon as he was grown he had those suckers capped.

Heather J. said...

fantaghiro23 - I still haven't read Persepolis but I plan to - I've heard great things about it.

Bybee - Oh yes! My teeth were perfect too ... it was really quite a traumatic experience for me. I can't imagine not having my tooth bonded properly - that must have been horrible!

Literary Feline said...

You've made me want to read this one, Heather. :-) Sounds like I might be able to relate too. LOL

Heather J. said...

Literary Feline - If you don't laugh and smile your way through this book, then there is something wrong! LOL

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