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Review: Smile by Raina Telgemeier

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Poet Ogden Nash said, “Some tortures are physical/And some are mental,/But the one that is both/Is dental.”

Graphic Novelist Raina Talgemeier knows this all too well; she is the Odysseus of modern dentistry. The author tells of her own particular journey of adolescent woe which came in the form of a seemingly endless tangle of dentists, endontists, periodontists, orthodonists, with their promises to perfect her not-so pearly whites.

In sixth grade Tanglemeier got braces to fix a run-of-the-mill overbite. Then, while horsing around with her friends, she fell, and knocked out her two front teeth. This one misstep plunged her into a four-year ordeal or painful procedures, torturous surgeries, not-to-mention a perpetually changing appearance at a time when every kid is having a crisis of confidence. (As if puberty isn’t traumatic enough!) Follow this lost heroine as she battles pimples, overcomes destructive friendships with hypercritical mean girls, endures painful oral surgeries, and finally finds her way to feeling at home in her own skin when she reaches high school.

In a particularly wonderful moment, Raina rebukes her long-time “friends” who do nothing but tear her down and tease her. She realizes no friends are better than those friends. Of course she adrift and lonely for a while, but Raina makes new friends soon enough.

The moment-of-truth comes when Raina is finally freed from her brace-faced prison. Despite all she has endured, the results are far from perfect. Dreading what she has come to expect as inevitable teasing in response to each¬† dental iteration, she approaches her friends with trepidation. But these new friends are nothing like the petty old friends. They’re like, “you look cute… let’s go eat!” Phew! These new amigos are actually fun to be around. What’s more they love and support her. And with that they wander off into a bright future. This is a must-read for anyone who has ever gone through puberty; you know who you are. Welcome home weary traveler!

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