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1-Page Summary of Smile
Smile, written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier, is a graphic novel that tells the story of her childhood. It was published in 2010, after originating as a weekly webcomic from 2004-2007. The book follows Telgemeier’s life during middle school and high school. She struggles with issues such as bullying and finding friends.
“Smile” is a young adult graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier. The story takes place in the sixth grade and follows a girl named Raina, who has an overbite that requires braces. When she falls while running after her friends, she breaks two teeth on her upper jaw. Her mother takes her to Dr. Golden for emergency surgery to fix them so they won’t fall out of her mouth completely.
Raina finds this situation funny at first, but then becomes frustrated with the recovery process. She is asked invasive questions and given throwaway platitudes. When she goes back to her orthodontist, Dr. Golden tells her that now her front teeth are too high up in her mouth and need to be moved down with braces. To move them down, she will have a root canal as well as painful headgear that makes it hard for Raina to go out in public without feeling like a nerd.
Raina’s mother consoles her by buying her videogames and allowing her to get a couple of ear piercings on her 12th birthday. Meanwhile, a sub-conflict emerges as Raina’s friends pressure her about how she looks. Two of them, Karin and Nicole, make mean jokes at Raina’s expense. When Raina enters seventh grade, she develops a crush on Sammy, another sixth grader in the band class who also wears braces. Soon after that, San Francisco experiences an earthquake but only suffers temporary power loss for the family. It turns out that Sammy has feelings for Raina too but then she develops an obsessive crush on Sean (not mentioned if he is basketball player or otherwise), which causes problems in school with Karin and Nicole until they leave town without telling anyone why they’re leaving.
The braces aren’t working, so Dr. Dragoni decides to remove them and give her full braces that will pull the teeth together. Raina is terrified of this but gets used to wearing a retainer with fake plastic teeth in between procedures so she can feel normal while waiting for the next one. She’s excited when Sammy asks her out on Valentine’s Day, but she feels sick at school and leaves without telling him why or even going into the dance where he was planning to confess his love for her. The next day, Sammy finds out from someone else what happened at the dance and is heartbroken because of it.
Raina’s braces are even more painful now, and she has to go for re-tightening every few weeks. In addition, Raina had a traumatic experience when she fainted after a botched gum cleaning. Her friends think that she is too uptight because of this incident, so they intensify their teasing and stage a prank on her 13th birthday. They give her a tacky makeover under the pretense of wooing Sean, who Raina likes but can’t get because of her appearance issues.
After graduation, Raina plans to start fresh at high school. However, she ends up in the same group and struggles in class. In fact, she now has to wear a rubber band between her braces to correct a crossbite. At the book’s climax, Karin mocks Raina because her extensive dental supplies fall out of her backpack. As Raina storms away from them, Karin and Nicole pull down her skirt in the middle of the courtyard while everyone watches. Tearful and humiliated by this incident, Raina stands up for herself as well as other friends who condone their actions when they tell others about it later on that day during lunchtime.