A few weeks ago, I finally picked up Raina Telgemeier’s book Smile. I had read and enjoyed one of her other comics, Drama, more than a year ago, but for whatever reason I had failed to hunt down her other work.
Smile places us in Raina’s middle school years, telling stories about friends and crushes linked together by the story of her teeth–teeth lost, replaced, straightened and shaped in a quest for a healthy, happy smile.
I have little difficulty empathizing with characters in books and comics, but I have never before read something that caused me this much sympathy pain. Having worn braces from 8th grade through my junior year of High School, every panel of orthodontists adjusting and tightening braces brought back vivid (and painful!) memories of my own experience. It’s a comic I wish I had had when I was going through that pain, not just to validate my own experience and reassure me that other people could sympathize, but to share with friends and family who had not had the pleasure of having someone attach wires to their teeth and tighten them until the bone reshaped to hold the new position (I was not a pleasant orthodontia patient).
It was a charming and entertaining comic, and felt very honest. I highly recommend this book for any late grade school or middle school student trying to navigate their own transition from kid to teen, and particularly anyone who has (or will need) braces.