Daily Graphic Novel Recommendation 225

Smile

by Raina Telgemeier
Genre notes: autobio
224 pages
ISBN: 0545132061 (Amazon)

Raina Telgemeier’s young life was cursed. The author, when she was in sixth grade, fell and did substantial damage to her two front teeth. Knocked one out and smashed the other one up into the gumline. I’m getting queasy just writing about it because as Telgemeier relates the event and immediate aftermath in her autobio comic, Smile, the whole experience is rather harrowing. I’m not usually one to blanch at grusome displays of violence in either prose or comics or film or art. Caravaggio’s Judith leaves me nonplussed. Murakami’s manskinner in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is exciting but never nauseating. And the cannibalistic humour in Chew is merely amusing. But Telgemeier’s recountment of her accident, the blood, the immediate visit to the dental surgeon, the x-rays showing where her missing tooth went—it all made me a bit faint.

Fortunately, all that was just the first fifteen pages or so. After that, Smile shifts into something not dissimilar to the common Young Adult exploration of junior-high– and then high-school–insecurities. The drama of growing up and all that. Only: young Raina also has much more orthodontic work in her immediate future than would the average kid suffering the slings and arrows of burgeoning puberty. Telgemeier balances the telling between school drama and mouth drama nicely—though it helps the reader to know that this is not just a story but that it is Telgemeier’s story. Through Raina, the author relives a streamlined and story-driven version of her own life and makes it palatable for general audiences.

And man American elementary-school-aged girls love the crap out of Smile (and Telgemeier's other books, it turns out)

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