Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Reader's Diary #1150- Raina Telgemeier: Smile
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 mundane— with just a dash of humour.