Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
Smile is Telgemeier’s autobiographical story of her mouth woes. As a kid, she knocked out her two front teeth and had to have lots of surgeries and then lots of orthodontic work. I found the first several pages, when she trips and falls and knocks the teeth out, to be almost unbearable to read since this is basically one of my worst nightmares. But once I got past that part, the rest of the story was pretty interesting, if quick. She also manages to dump her old friends and find new, better ones, which is refreshing. Kids might put up with gentle bullying (is that an oxymoron? I mean, not being treated how you’ve asked to be treated, even if it might truly just be a personality clash) but reading Raina’s story might help them realize that they don’t have to stay in an unhealthy friendship, just because they’ve always been friends with those kids, and they can make new friends whenever they want.
Drama is not a sequel, but follows 7th grader Callie and her friendships and crushes. She sort of flits from crush to crush, juggling them along with her friendships, both new and old, which took me right back to middle school. Most of these relationships come from doing stage crew and there is the main storyline of putting up a play. Callie and her friends seem so confident in their roles of costume designer, set designer, stage manager, etc, that it’s easy to forget they’re only in middle school. Telgemeier has a real knack for relationships and, well, drama. One of Callie’s friends comes out to her, and while the conversation is incredibly realistic, it also has Callie coming to grips with her friend’s sexuality and struggling with it a little. I wish that there were more models of conversations where it doesn’t matter, or friendships where coming out isn’t a big deal, or where the person coming out doesn’t need to ask their friend if it’s okay with them. Someday.