Selah Janel Guest Review: Smile

Please welcome the insanely talented Selah Janel with this first in a series of guest posts. Take it away, Selah….

Guest Book Review by Selah Janel

Full disclaimer: I’m a comics fan, have been for a while. I can’t remember how I got started, but I know I was an adult looking for interesting stories. What’s amazed me through the years is how that search has led me to explore a deep love of young adult graphic novels. In a lot of ways, I find that they’re better paced, more to the point, and at times more original and poignant than their plain-text counterparts. There’s also the weird quirk that they still feel like they’re for a teen and tween audience (although they can obviously be enjoyed by anyone, because hi, I’m like five a thousand-year-old childless mummy in comparison to the intended market). Sadly, they’re still overlooked. A lot of kids I know, a lot of parents I know, even a lot of librarians I know either brush it off as not something they’d be interested in or “not real books.” Problem is, they’re missing out. So I’ve been given this platform to further my mission, which is to bring to you the best of those ya graphic novels I’ve read thus far (and this will be a reoccurring series, because there are a lot, so buckle up).

To kick off this series, I’m going to start with a powerhouse author in the genre. If you don’t know Raina Telgemeir by now and are in the ya reading range or are a parent, you should. I’ve yet to read even a mediocre book by her. She’s done a little something for everyone, and even if you’re not familiar with her writing, you’ve probably seen her art meandering around, especially if you’re a BSC graphic novel fan. Her books in general are poignant and approachable and usually explore little moments that can affect a girl’s life in a big way.

To get specific, though, the first one that I read, and the one that I connect with the most, is Smile. An autobiographical account of the problems that arise after Raina takes a fall coming home from girl scouts at age 11, it covers the days that turn into months that turn into years of dental drama. There are also some great bits about her relationship with her little sister, different types of crushes, and what propels her to be an artist. In probably the best subplot, she also deals with friends that aren’t always friendly and the growing out of old friendships and into new ones. Seriously, this is probably one of the better portrayals of this type of things I’ve seen in any young adult fiction.


Reading this as an adult, I can’t help but see a lot of myself in Raina in hindsight. It doesn’t hurt that I suffered my own orthodontic nightmare (nearly a decade of braces, jaw surgery, and other delights). Parts of this just squeezed my heart and other parts made me double down on my flossing so I never have to have my gums scaled, because dude. In all seriousness, I love this book for the portrayals of different types of relationships and the growth of the main character. Raina is an easy character to embrace (Book Raina. I’ve never met Real Raina, though I’d totally hang out with her because anyone who can have a life epiphany to The Little Mermaid is my kind of person). At the end of the day it does what the genre is hopefully supposed to do: let readers in the age group know they’re not alone, and remind older readers that being a kid isn’t as easy as we’d like to think.

The art is fun and open, everything flows and is paced well, and the art blends great with the story and dialogue. The book in general is just really easy to fall into. A good, casual read to kick back with. An easy 5/5

Good for: I’m gonna say 8-9 on up, especially good for tween girls. Also good for those of us wanting to reminisce about late 80s/90s and those wild middle school years.

Catch Up With Selah

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