Raina’s middle school misery begins one night when a spur of the moment foot race turns into a teenager’s worst nightmare.  Raina Telgemeier tells her story of a teenager’s life and orthodontia through Smile, a wonderfully illustrated graphic novel.  A teen’s social interactions are challenging enough and with Raina’s ongoing dental work, it proves to be a frustrating experience.


Raina’s middle school life is typical as her friends are more concerned with indulging themselves and improving their social standing than they are with supporting Raina through her dental challenges.  This autobiographical story humorously recounts her advancement from middle school to high school and the discovery of her true talent as an artist. At the same time, she discovers supportive friends who make her want to smile. It goes to show that “those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” I liked that a graphic novel can teach a great lesson.


I thought that Telgemeier’s way of using color in her drawings and detailed effects gives the reader a sensory experience.  The dialogue among characters is in a style that appeals to teenagers.  I liked that after her first trip to the dentist, Raina complains that her “head hurts so much.”  Her dad sarcastically says, “Why don’t you bang it against the wall a few times that way when you stop banging, it will hurt less!!”  If you enjoy an easy read with well illustrated pictures and humorous dialogue then Smile is the book for you.

Author: Raina Telgemeier

Genre: Graphic Novel