Smile by Raina Telgemeier Review

The message in this book will make you smile.

Smile by Raina Telgemeier is a graphic novel memoir inspired by the author’s experience as a middle school student who received extensive dental work after an accident that took out her two front teeth. After the accient, Raina loses a lot of self-confidence, but as she grows older, she becomes more confident in herself and learns what is truly important.

Smile

I remember when this book came out around ten years ago because I literally saw it everywhere. I don’t remember graphic novels being as huge at the time, and as someone who strictly read contemporary YA at the time, I never picked it up. Now that I’m older, I have expanded my reading, and recently, I’ve been trying to pick up more books targeted for middle grade.

In the past few years, I’ve read quite a few graphic novels that I enjoyed, like El Deafo by Cece Bell and Best Friends by Shannon Hale, both of which are graphic novel memoirs. I was pleasantly surprised that Smile is also a graphic novel memoir, as I didn’t know this when it became popular so long ago. While Smile isn’t my favorite graphic novel, I still think it has a valuable message as well as relatable characters for the graphic novel’s target audience.

As someone who has never had braces, or any major dental work besides removing my wisdom teeth, I appreciated how Telgemeier explained a lot of the dental work that she received in this book. While I’ve seen other people get braces, I have never personally felt the physical pain that they can cause or how they may affect how someone feels about their appearance. I think Telgemeier’s explanations, especially regarding her emotions on her appearance, makes the book relatable to many readers. Even if you have never had braces, in middle school there are a lot of people who feel self conscious about how they look for a multitude of reasons, and it is comforting to read that you’re not the only person who felt that way.

I also enjoyed how Raina grew as a person throughout her experience with braces and as a student in middle school. At the beginning of the graphic novel, Raina’s “friends” frequently make fun of her and walk all over her. However, as she grows older and gains more confidence, she stands up for herself and becomes more comfortable in her skin. Even though this book doesn’t take place in 2020, it is still a relevant message that is important for young readers to hear.

Overall, Smile is a quick read with a relatable and positive message for young readers. While it wasn’t my favorite graphic novel, it is still a solid story, especially for the target audience. I give Smile three out of five stars and I look forward to checking out more graphic novels by this author.

Just Jaime by Terri Libenson Review

happy

Unfortunately, Just Jaime was just average for me.

Just Jaime by Terri Libenson is a middle-grade graphic novel that follows Jaime and Maya, two friends at odds before summer vacation. Ever since Jaime and Maya befriended two new girls at the start of middle school, Jaime notices her best friend get pulled further and further away by the leader of the pack who frequently puts down Jaime. Maya wants the popularity that her new friends offer, however, she struggles to determine if that popularity is more important than her friend Jaime.

I saw Just Jaime available within my library’s e-books. I read Real Friends by Shannon Hale earlier this year and the plot of this book sounded extremely similar despite taking place in different time periods (Real Friends is a memoir of Hale’s experience in middle school and Just Jaime is a fiction story that takes place in the present). Since these stories were so similar, I constantly found myself comparing the two graphic novels. Sadly for Just Jaime, I enjoyed the other story a little bit more.

One aspect of Just Jaime that I enjoyed were the two perspectives, which was not present in Real Friends. In Just Jaime, you get to see the story from Jaime and Maya. I think this helped stray away from the typical mean girl trope often present in children’s books targeted towards girls because readers get to see the peer pressure that Maya faces. While Maya’s actions may not be the best, readers can sympathize more with her character.

Another aspect of this book that I enjoyed was its reflection of real life. I think many readers will relate to Jaime and Maya. Many of the situations presented in this book, like ending friendships through text, would be very relatable to the target audience of this book. While I think Real Friends captured my attention and captivated the emotions surrounding friend breakups better, I think the modern setting would be more relatable to the book’s target audience.

While there were several aspects of this book that I enjoyed, there were several places where this book fell flat for me. Even though the events in this book were relatable, they were not fleshed out enough for me to really feel the emotions of the main characters. While the character’s actions did play a large role in the book, I mostly remember a string of events than the characters themselves. Additionally, I felt like the problems in this book were resolved too quickly. Also, I was not the biggest fan of this particular art style, however, that is more of personal preference.

Overall, Just Jaime was an average read for me. Maybe if I hadn’t read Real Friends earlier in this year, which is extremely similar in plot and message, I would have enjoyed this one a little bit more. I give Just Jaime three out of five stars.

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Wires and Nerve: Gone Rogue Review

 

book review

Wires and Nerve: Gone Rogue is the second installment of the graphic novel series that takes place after the events of The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. In this conclusion to the graphic novel series, Iko continues to fight a rogue soldiers set out to destroy Cinder. She also considers to struggle with her humanity and feelings towards Kinney.

After reading Wires and Nerve, I was slightly disappointed in the story, but still enjoyed seeing my favorites again. Particularly, I had problems with the pacing in the story as well as certain characters not acting consistently with their personalities shown in the book series. Unfortunately, Gone Rogue was a huge let down and became my lowest rated book in the entire series.

Like with the first book in this graphic novel duology, I had major problems with the story line. It seemed like the same conversations and problems were re-hashed over and over again. Plus, I felt like this novel reused plots from the original story but not in as compelling of a way (for example, Wolf “going rogue” with the soldiers rallying against Cinder). I also didn’t like how some of the plot also appeared in the short story collection, Stars Above. Additionally, it seemed like all of the different story lines were finished in a hurry at the end, while still managing to leave some major plot points wide open. Overall, I felt unsatisfied upon finishing the book.

I also wasn’t sold one some of the characters in this book. While Iko was going through some major changes in this book, she didn’t seem anything like herself throughout this story. Additionally, I felt like Kinney (and his relationship with Iko) failed to make any major growth between the first and second book. Although I liked seeing some of my favorite characters from the previous books, they really didn’t have an impact on the plot or story and it seemed like some of the characters were just thrown in so we could see them again. However, I did appreciate seeing Jacin’s father throughout the graphic novels. I really enjoyed his character and learning more about him.

Overall, Gone Rogue fell flat for me in several ways. Even though The Lunar Chronicles is one of my favorite YA series, this book just didn’t meet my expectations. I give Gone Rogue two out of five stars.