A 215-page account of a teenage girl getting braces on her teeth may seem like thin soup for a comic book memoir, but Raina Telgemeier's art and storytelling brings Smile to life.
My 13-year-old daughter just got braces so I thought she would enjoy Smile, but I ended up taking it and reading it over the weekend. Raina starts the book with a visit to the orthodontist, who tells her she needs braces. That night she falls face down on the pavement and knocks her two front teeth out (actually, one falls out and the other one gets driven up into her skull bone -- yikes). So what was initially going to be a simple set of braces turns into something more complicated, which nicely parallels with the increasingly complicated issues that a young girl about to enter junior high school must deal with, including new friends and new feelings. The book ends up being less about braces and more about the day-to-day trials and triumphs of early teenagerhood.
Autobiographical comic books, especially ones about people's everyday lives, are my favorite kind of comic book, and I'd place Telgemeier near the top of my list. She's great at presenting image moments. Her use of timing and framing is probably what has gotten her nominated for Eisner, Ignatz, Cybil, and Web Cartoonists' Choice awards. Her use of exaggeration (see panel four, above) is employed sparingly and to good effect. When I was finished with Smile, I felt as though I'd really gotten to know what Telgemeier's early adolescence was like.
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Brian Wood’s Starve, Volume One (collecting issues 1-5) was the best, meanest new graphic novel debut since Transmetropolitan; now, with Starve, Volume Two (issues 6-10), Wood brings the story in for a conclusion that is triumphant and wicked and eminently satisfying, without being pat.
I discovered The 13 Clocks by reading Neil Gaiman’s introduction to the 2008 New York Review of Books edition (which I found in The View from the Cheap Seats, a massive collection of Gaiman’s nonfiction), where he calls it “Probably the best book in the world” — how could I resist?
The View from the Cheap Seats, Neil Gaiman’s mammoth collection of nonfiction essays, introductions, and speeches, is a remarkable explanatory volume in which Gaiman explains not just why he loves the things he loves, but also what makes them great.
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