Book Review · Books · Graphic Novel

Book Review: Smile

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“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.”

-Synopsis from Goodreads

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I had a lot of thoughts while reading this graphic novel and ultimately came away with mixed feelings about it. While the artwork was very appealing to me, that’s pretty much where I stopped enjoying it.

I am sure that it was very cathartic to write about a traumatic childhood event, but if I had read this book as a preteen or young adult, it would have almost certainly traumatized me.

I cannot imagine giving this book to anyone unless they are also going through a specific dental emergency or crisis and need a way to process it. I would actually steer readers away from this book, and advocate for trigger warnings for the amount of disturbing images it contained. If I had visceral reactions to it, I’m certain other readers have as well.

For the record, a big portion of this book is not about emergency dental surgery and/or traumatic dental visits. There is a coming-of-age story being told here of someone who doesn’t fit in, feels self-conscious about themselves and their body, and is basically just growing up and going through common middle school and high school life events. That is a book I would recommend to other readers. But the dental aspect completely overshadowed the rest of the story and it just didn’t sit well with me. I really wanted to be able to like this, but I just didn’t. I found the book to be quite depressing and I almost stopped reading it after the first few pages.

Final Thoughts

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about once again not liking something that has a ton of hype behind it (like Drama) since that tends to happen frequently. Raina Telgemeir has four graphic novels out right now (excluding the Babysitter’s Club adaptations) two of which are fictional stories and two of which are memoirs. A third memoir, Guts, is coming out on Tuesday. For the record, I am planning to read it when my library copy comes in, but my hopes are not too high.

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