Smile, of course, is more than a dental drama; it provides s slice-of-life look at being a teenager, dealing with family issues, trying to figure out friends, etc. When I ask kids why they love Smile so much, they do talk about the trauma of Raina's dental issues, but mostly they note how they love reading about a "real" kid who deals with friendship and family challenges, just like they do. Smile won the 2011 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Teens.
Raina, who's married to fellow graphic novelist Dave Roman, decided to mix it up after Smile, publishing Drama (Graphix/Scholastic, $23.99 hardcover, $10.99 paperback, ages10-14) in 2012. I say mix it up because while Smile is a memoir, Drama is fiction, although Raina acknowledges that it is based on her own experiences as a drama geek in middle school. True to its title, Drama is filled with the drama of the pre-teen and teen years: who likes who, who's in and who's out, etc. Raina also tackles the issue of sexual identity, highlighting the way twin boys deal with their homosexuality. Again Raina says the twins are based on some very good friends of hers, twin males who dealt with this issue as teens.
Meanwhile, while kids are awaiting the publication of Sisters on August 26, they are loving another graphic novel memoir, The Dumbest Idea Ever (Graphix/Scholastic, $24.99 hardcover, $11.99 paperback) by Jimmy Gownley, author/illustrator of the popular Amelia Rules books. In his memoir, Jimmy talks about how he got the idea for Amelia Rules and then figured out a way -- with a lot of help from his parents -- to publish the first book in the series. Readers in my library are fascinated by the way that Jimmy broke into the graphic novel business, but they seem just as interested in his teenage travails, including his rollercoaster performance as a student and his friendship challenges. Jimmy does a wonderful job at honestly portraying his teen years, and that seems to really resonate with young readers.