In sixth grade, Raina Telgemeier fell while running and severely damaged her two front teeth. Because of that she had to endure four years of braces, headgear, retainers, surgeries, and more in an effort to make her teeth look and work the way they should. On top of all of that, she also had to deal with the usual problems of teenage life: middle school, high school, best friends who aren’t, low self-image, crushes on boys, etc. Smile is her story of trying to find her way.
Telgemeier has already proved that she can accurately portray the ups and downs of early adolescent life with her graphic novel adaptations of Ann M. Martin’s Babysitter Club books (also published by Scholastic Graphix). In Smile she uses her own history to talk to young teens and, by doing so, creates a level of authenticity which is hard to match. Even readers who aren’t forced to wear braces will identify with Telgemeier’s troubles with friends, feelings for the boy who ignores her, and difficulties figuring out just who she is. She doesn’t play the pity card; she just presents a situation and shows the reader how it made her feel. And since she was such an ordinary teen–not hugely popular, but not the bottom of the social heap–her experiences are accessible by a wide range of readers.
In her art it is clear that Telgemeier has a firm grasp of the comics medium….