Wednesday, July 21, 2010
by Raina Telgemeier
published by Graphix (Scholastic)
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, and 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. This coming-of-age true story is sure to resonate with anyone who has ever been in middle school, and especially those who have ever had a bit of their own dental drama.
I've never had braces and slept completely through the removal of my wisdom teeth, so Raina's account of her personal "dental drama" was very enlightening to me. I had no idea, for instance, that teeth could be shifted to the extremes that hers are. The fact that this is a graphic memoir, and Telgemeier uses drawings to show you what has been done to her teeth makes it very easy to grasp the process. I'm not sure if young people facing the prospect of wearing braces would be more horrified or reassured by seeing what they could be in for, but anyone who's been through any of the various procedures will likely be comforted to know that they're not alone.
In addition to the dental drama, she also depicts how she learned to stand up for herself and pursue her own interests in high school, rather than trying to hold on to middle school friendships that no longer suit her. Who can't identify with that?
I really like Telgemeier's artwork. It's colorful and detailed without looking cluttered. The details help to create a strong sense of time (early 1990s) and place (both the overall San Francisco setting and her middle and high schools).
Other nice touches include the end papers, which have been designed to look like signature pages in a school yearbook, and the author's note, which explains how she came to put her story down on paper. Overall, it's a cute and charming book.