Smile

By Raina Telgemeier

From the back cover

Family, Friends, Boys… Dental Drama?!
A True Story

Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth. What follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there’s still more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friends who turn out to be not so friendly. Raina’s story takes us from middle school to high school, where she discovers her artistic voice, finds out what true friendship really means, and where she can finally…smile.

My thoughts…

This a graphic novel illustrating the author’s middle school through to high school years. The storyline revolves around the main character’s struggles with broken front teeth leading to surgery and a headgear, to boy crushes and true friendship. It touches on important ideologies for young minds including concerns with outer appearances and choosing friends wisely. Parents may appreciate the positive messages displayed in the book but should be aware that, like many young girls in the West, Raina is very interested in boys and is continuously on the lookout for “hot boys”.

 

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

  • Pages 51-52: Raina talks to her best friend about wishing boys would like her. She names a number of boys who like her but says she wants cute boys to be interested in her. She asks her friend if her father can drive them to the mall so they can hang our with boys.
  • Raina is continuously concerned with boys.
  • Raina stops liking one boy and starts liking another in a matter of days. Her friend suggests she ask him out on Valentine’s Day. She refuses because she wants to boy to ask her.
  • Pages 60-61: Raina meets a boy in class. Attraction is clearly portrayed with flowing hearts as she describes him as “cute”.
  • Page 132: Raina fantasizes over her crush during class and is illustrated kissing him on the lips.
  • Her friends “glam her up” on her 13th birthday telling her that’s how her crush would start noticing her and would kiss her. They tell her to shave her legs and wear her shortest skirt with fishnet stockings and a tube top. Which she does in her home to demonstrate, but then she realizes her friends are planking her. She starts questioning whether she really should change her appearance for him to notice her but she only resolutes to letting her hair down but sticks to the same wardrobe.
  • Raina tries out for the basketball team to get her crush to notice her.
  • There are mentions of puberty and some Boyd changes as in bigger chest, wider hips, acne, and mood swings.
  • “Practice-flirting”: a term used to practice flirting with non-cute boys to be ready for the “cute” ones.

 

Violence

None. Raina slips and falls and breaks her two front teeth but the accident is not illustrated graphically.

Profanity

None – the word jerk is used.

Smoking/Intoxicants

Raina is given drugs to ease her pain during and after surgery.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

  • Preparation of Easter Eggs
  • Raina celebrates her birthday
  • A celebration of Christmas is portrayed and she wishes her crush a Happy Hanukkah
  • Raina saves her teeth for the Tooth Fairy

Positive messages

The story teaches girls not to worry about their appearances and to value themselves regardless of how they look.
Raina eventually lets go of her friends when she realizes that they’re only putting doubts about herself in her mind and are continuously putting her down to hide their own insecurities.

Final Verdict

Although this story contains very important positive messages for our youth, parents should keep in mind that one of the book’s main themes is boy-girl attractions and relationships.

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