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[Book Review] Smile by Raina Telgemeier

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It may seem unorthodox to review a book on an animation website but Raina Telgemeier’s delightful graphic novel Smile has an animator’s spirit at its core.

Honestly, I have been resistant to the graphic novels I’ve attempted in the past. They can be too busy for me. I don’t know if it is just my lazy eye, but I find it sometimes difficult to know what to focus on, and I get overwhelmed by the images and small text on the page. However, in Smile, I didn’t have these problems. The text is clear, and the images easy to decipher.

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It basically tells the story of Raina’s life from 6th grade into high school through the dental work she has to deal with after a fall breaks her two front teeth. I never had braces, but it’s really just a vehicle to tell the story of her life and that I could relate to in spades.

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I particularly liked the untidiness of Raina’s narrative. She’s not afraid to admit when she was a bad friend and talks frankly about realizing her friends were actually kind of mean, and she needed to move on. Lesser authors would have been tempted to tie everything up in a nice bow, but Raina doesn’t.

I also loved a section where she goes to see The Little Mermaid (under protest) and realizes she wants to be an animator. I can think of so many conversations between my friends and I that went just like this:

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I really liked how Raina struggles with normal things along with her teeth like having a crush on a boy, gaining and losing friends, getting her ears pierced, and struggling with schoolwork. All of it was so relatable and real.

It also has lots of great details like being in the San Francisco earthquake in 1989 and what that was like for her family. It’s a good balance between the big events that make up life and the smaller struggles like poor Raina and her teeth. I don’t know if I’ve heard of someone who has had quite the ordeal she has with her teeth!

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It’s funny, sweet, and a real joy to read. My little niece is nine years old, and she reads it again and again. It’s a book the entire family can read and enjoy together. I can’t recommend it more highly.  You should all read it.

The illustrations are also bright, colorful, and very sweet. It makes me wish it could be turned into a TV series like Daria in the late 90s. There’s something about the graphics that brings an instant smile to my face.

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Have any of you read Smile?  What did you think of it, and what other graphic novels do you enjoy?

Edited by: Kelly Conley

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About Rachel Wagner

Rachel is a rottentomatoes approved film critic and podcaster. She loves all things animation and does a monthly podcast on classic Disney films and on obscure animation at Rachel's Reviews. She also is the founder and lead host of The Hallmarkies Podcast. She grew up with mainstream classics like The Little Mermaid and The Simpsons but also loves indie and anime fare like Song of the Sea and Your Name. Most important to her is discussing all kinds of film and TV shows with her friends and all of you. Follow Rachel on twitter at @rachel_reviews and on her blog rachelsreviews.net