Raina Telgemeier's graphic novels are all the rage in the middle-grade section so I decided to give them a read.
FAMILY, FRIENDS, BOYS...DENTAL DRAMA?! A true story
Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girls 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.
Reading Smile I am once again reminded that I had it really easy tooth-wise growing up. I didn't need braces (I've got a few bottom teeth that are a bit crooked but they don't show) and I didn't need any oral surgery until my wisdom teeth had to come out after high school graduation (and that was an unfun adventure, let me tell you). Although I was lucky enough to avoid the hell that is the orthodontist's office, I did got through all those middle-school/adolescent problems that crop up in Raina's memoir: bad skin, mean friends, crushes on boys, bratty siblings, finding one's place in the grand scheme. This is really well-written and illustrated. I completely understand why kids gravitate toward this book. (Aside: Raina and I have to be the same age because I remember the SF earthquake happened when I was in middle school - that was ALL THE NEWS that month - and I had every skincare/hygiene/cosmetic product that pops up right down to the Epilady.)
Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school's production of Moon Over Mississippi, she can't really sing. Instead she's the set designer for the drama department stage crew, and this year she's determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn't know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen. And when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!
Drama is a bit of a different fish, particularly since it switches from memoir to fiction. One thing I loved about this book is that it is very inclusive of LGBTQ and treats it in a very real-world way. Since we see the action from Callie's perspective, we are there with her while she's processing the idea that a boy she has a crush on might be same-sex oriented (I went through a similar experience in high school). As a fellow drama/crew kid I loved all the theatre stuff, but I didn't believe the level of quality/professionalism in the set design/tech to be middle school particularly because I didn't see many adults helping the kids. A fun book.