Comic book autobiography of a teen girl's life with braces


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.

Buy Smile on Amazon


  1. “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). ”

    Uggghhh! I didn’t need to read that!

    Why would such a horrible thing happen to somebody that was not Glenn Beck? There is no justice in this world. . .

    1. You need to see this recent Onion headline then: “Victim In Fatal Car Accident Tragically Not Glenn Beck”

  2. Knocking your teeth out is probably the one thing that just makes me absolutely cringe. For some reason it strikes me even worse than, say, getting a burn. *shivers*

  3. My family and I met Raina this past June at Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC . She’s an incredibly cool person, a great story teller and anyone who illustrated the Baby Sitter’s Club series AND offers a “brace face discount” gets bonus points from my wife and daughter.

  4. How weird: when I look at the thumbnail of the cover on Amazon I see braces on the smile. While I click “Look inside,” the large version of the cover pops up and the braces are gone!

    I wonder if the publisher sent the wrong file by accident to Amazon, and only one of them has been updated? Or they scanned a pre-publication version that had a big error on the cover?

  5. Seeing that gave me a flashback to how the mold tasted. I was traumatized by my braces “experience” because we were poor, and my father took me to an orthodontists’ school, where they basically used me as a practice dummy.
    It was painful painful painful. They extracted four of my molars and pushed everything back. I think they contributed to my sleep apnea by narrowing my airway.
    Today, I understand, braces have progressed to being less of a traumatic experience. I hope no kids ever have to go through what I went through.

  6. Woah, go Raina! I’ve known Raina and her husband, Dave Roman, for years and Dave’s work is pretty darn spectacular, too – his website is His comic “Astronaut Elementary” is one of my favorites.

  7. Thanks for recommending this. I just bought it for my seven year old (on said recommendation) to read on the airplane and she’s totally glued to it.

  8. that book is sooo good i read it last year when i was in grade 6 and my friend who lives in Egypt and is coming back next year gave me the baby sitters club

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