Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Reader's Diary #1150- Raina Telgemeier: Smile

The universe was out to make me read Raina Telgemeier's Smile. My daughter was reading it this summer. My son's about to get braces. And it seems like I've been seeing it everywhere lately even though the book's 4 years old now. Actually, I didn't fight too hard against the universe. It looked pretty good.

Smile is Telgemeier's autobiographical story about her experiences from grade six to high school. That's potentially an awkward and tough time for anyone, but hers has become more complicated after she falls, injures her teeth, and begins a long ordeal with surgeries and braces. Plenty of people go through similar experiences, of course, but I don't doubt that it must be difficult. But "issue" books typically tend to be of heavier topics: suicide, AIDS, divorce, drugs, gangs, and so on. It's nice that Smile can provide some sort of solace to those experiencing simpler, but no less real, problems (and it does address bullying, to a small extent).

That said, I wouldn't get hung up on it being an issue book anyway. I know lots of others who enjoyed it and though they couldn't necessarily relate to the specific incidents, could relate to many of the broader issues like simply fitting in. Raina (the character) comes across as super sweet and personable that you've just got to root for her. (Though she does break one poor boy's heart who reminded me an awful lot of me at that age!)

I also wouldn't get hung up on it being a YA graphic novel either. I quite enjoyed the setting as well; circa late 80's and references that took me back to my own childhood. The references to the original Nintendo system and Bart Simpson were appreciated. I wasn't surprised to see on Telgemeier's website that she's just a year younger than I am.

Likewise, I also wasn't surprised to see For Better or For Worse listed as early inspiration. The style of the artwork was very similar to Lynn Johnston and plot-wise both cartoonists seem to find poignancy in the mundanewith just a dash of humour.


Eric P said...

It seems my daughter and perhaps my son will need braces. Sigh. I saw this at a children's bookshop and decided I might as well get it in advance. I definitely hope my kids' teeth aren't quite as ornery as the main characters. My daughter kind of flipped through it (sooner than I was expecting really) and told me it was a good thing she wasn't freaked out by cartoon blood!

John Mutford said...

Eric: Not to mention the stress on the child, it's insanely expensive isn't it?

My son has been surprisingly good about the whole thing, so much so that I've avoided recommending the book to him at the risk of planting insecurities that have not yet occurred to him.

Eric P said...

And I just found my dental plan has an absurdly low lifetime cap on orthodontic services. Well, I guess something is better than nothing.

I had years of work done on my teeth, but I hope my daughter's situation isn't quite as complicated.