Finished: Nov. 24, 2010
First Published: Feb. 1, 2010
Genre: children, realistic fiction, coming of age, memoir
Smile!! Good! Let's get you set up in a chair, and the orthodontist will look at your teeth in a few minutes.
Acquired: Borrowed a copy from my local library.
Reason for Reading: This is a Cybils '10 nominee and required reading for me as a graphic novels panelist.
This is a graphic memoir that follows the author from grade six through her sophomore year of high school specifically focusing on her dental problems. In the 6th grade, just shortly before she is scheduled for braces for an overbite Raina trips and knocks out her 2 front teeth. A host of other problems follow as we watch Raina's dental nightmare over the next several years. During this time Raina is going through adolescence, her normal self-esteem issues at this age are multiplied by the extensive work she has done which includes a retainer with two false front teeth attached to it.
I loved this book. First the artwork is wonderful. Cartoony but so very expressive. The characters facial expressions almost tell the story by themselves. Set in the late eighties, there are lots of fun retro moments for adult readers in the background as one notices her watching 'Silver Spoons' on TV and they play an original 8-bit Nintendo system. The dental story is transfixing. I didn't wear braces myself, so that and all the extra problems of missing teeth and loss of bone, etc. was fascinating. Raina goes through this experience with pain and complaints but she is a happy child and can always see the bright side of things, eventually. Children going through/or about to will identify with Raina and feel for her while at the same time being thankful they only have to wear braces. This is also a story about growing up and it very nicely shows how Raina slowly notices over the years how she has become the butt of jokes in her group of friends and while no one is mean to her (on purpose) she's not exactly in healthy relationships friend-wise. As she grows older she finds new interests, meets new friends, become boy conscious and starts to feel good about herself on the outside but more importantly ... on the inside.
One notices all the issues being dealt with within this story without an issue being made out of them and the story is a very enjoyable read. Both funny and emotional. It isn't until the end that the author spends a mere two pages waxing eloquently about how in hindsight she realized she'd moved beyond the child stage and grown-up a bit by the time her braces were removed. A story that really grabs you from the beginning, un-put-downable, with a main character who is a joy to meet and get to know.