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Comic Book / Smile Sisters Duology
aka: Smileand Sisters

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Don't be afraid to smile!
You love 'em, no matter what.

"You may experience slight discomfort during this time."
— Raina's narration while describing how braces work

— Raina's reaction to her sister's teasing about "The Incident"

Smile is an award-winning 2010 autobiographical graphic novel written by Raina Telgemeier. One day after a Girl Scout meeting, 11 year old Raina trips and knocks her two front teeth out. What follows is nearly half a decade of retainers, false teeth, and headgear ... on top of typical adolescent worries and insecurities. Charming.

Sisters is the 2014 interquel to Smile, and deals primarily with 14 year old Raina's relationship to her 9 year old sister Amara. The story is written against the backdrop of a road trip (there's a quick panel in Smile which unintentionally foreshadows this) before Raina goes to high school. While the two fight and bicker initially, they begin to realize that they need each other more than initially thought.

A third graphic novel, Guts is due for release in September 17, 2019.


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Smile contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Twice do Raina's friends try to invoke this. On Raina's birthday, her friends trick her into dressing up in skimpier clothes so that a guy she has a crush on will notice her. When she finds out and confronts them about it, they use this defense.
    • And later when Nicole and Karin pull Raina's skirt down in the courtyard;
    Raina: That's not the point. They humiliated me.
    Emily:But you have to was kinda funny...'''
    • Unsurprisingly, Raina does not agree.
  • A-Cup Angst: Played with. When Raina's mother says they need to start discussing her wearing a bra, the recently turned thirteen year old Raina drowns her out with a long "Mommmmmm."
  • Adorkable: Raina. She's shy, insecure, fairly nice and a bit geeky.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Amara, who is five years younger than Raina (making her six at the start and ten at the end) constantly teases Raina for her braces.
    Amara: You're gonna be a metal mouth!
  • Bad Vibrations: Used with Raina's depiction of the 1989 Loma Preita earthquake, which took place during the events of the story.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Raina's "friends" subtly demean and bully hear through mean-spirited jabs at her appearance. Raina slowly but surely realizes the toll that their verbal abuse is taking on her, culminating in Nicole and Karin pulling Raina's skirt down in front of the entire school.
    Emily: You know what makes you look like a baby? ... Those ponytails!
    • Raina herself, albeit to a far lesser degree. She can be quite standoffish and snappy towards people who want to help her, including her mother. That being said, she is still a generally good-natured person who loves her family and most of her acting out is due to her insecurities and not due to her being a bad person.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Raina breaks up with her old friends and doesn't get together with Sean. That being said, she still makes nicer friends, accepts her teeth will never look perfect, and rediscovers her artistic talent. Overall, the story leans more towards the sweet part than the bitter part.
  • Braces of Orthodontic Overkill: Downplayed, if not averted. Raina's mouthgear is fairly realistic (justified as this is an autobiographical work). Doesn't stop her "friends" from making fun of her anyways.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Raina knocks out her two front teeth, rediscovers her love for drawing, realizes her friends are not so friendly, and lives through a giant earthquake. Despite the last one being the most destructive, it's barely given mention in the story. Which is why we barely mention it in this article.
  • Bumbling Dad: Surprisingly averted; while Raina's father is a bit silly, he's still rather competent.
  • Butt-Monkey: Poor Raina; she cannot catch in a break in this book! She knocks her teeth out, loses a chance to get with two boys, is humiliated on more than one occasion, and breaks up with her friends.
  • Character Development: Raina becomes more assertive and confident as the book goes on. This is evident when you compare two specific scenes of her friends bullying her (see Bitch In Sheep's Clothing and Actually Pretty Funny). In the first incident, Raina calls out her friends but does not take further action when they ignore her complaints. In the second incident, she breaks up with them.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Throughout the novel, Raina is told not to eat popcorn while she has her braces on. When her braces are finally removed and she thinks they look disgusting, guess how Dr. Dragoni tries to console her.
  • Crush Blush: Raina does this multiple times when around Sammy or Sean. Sammy does this once.
  • Cry Cute: Raina's initial reaction to her "friends" pulling her skirt down.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Raina, at times.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Compared to Raina Telgemeier's later work:
    • The artwork, while excellent overall, is less consistent compared to Sisters, with Raina's father changing appearance multiple times until Raina finally settled on a design she liked. This is most likely due to the book starting as a webcomic.
    • Likewise, the text is handwritten. All future graphic novels Raina Telgemeier has written and drawn used typed text. There are also more yellow text boxes here than in Sisters especially.
    • Smile has more product placement and references to the 1980's than Sisters. While both graphic novels are relatively timeless aside from the occasional reference (who hasn't seen The Little Mermaid?), Sisters is more so, to the point that the only major indicators that it is set in the 1990s are Raina's Walkman, the lack of cellphones (which is never explicitly pointed out, so even then), and the record player in a flashback.
  • The '80s: Begins in 1989.
  • Eye Take: Raina's reaction to her new friends treating her post-braces teeth (which she thought were ugly) with a grain of salt.
  • Flashback: After being given novocaine and laughing gas before her two front teeth are removed by an orthodontist, Raina flashbacks to around the first grade, when she pulls out one of her front teeth while playing in a bouncy house. Her mom manages to calm her down by having her father make a substitute tooth for the Tooth Fairy. The next morning, Raina wakes up to find $5 under her pillow and a letter from the "Tooth Fairy".
  • Fiery Redhead: Raina's redheaded "friend", Nicole.
  • Hidden Depths: Raina loves comics and is an excellent artist. Her love for drawing is, in part, inspired by her watching The Little Mermaid.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Early in the book, Raina expresses insecurities about her appearance to Jane (who, coincidentally, is the only one of her friends who is consistently nice to her). Jane doesn't take Raina seriously and maintains that someone at her school has to like her. Raina then delivers this gem:
    Raina: Well ... Jeremiah likes me ... and Abraham ... and Elias ... so do Dan, and Andre, and Matt P..., oh, and Aaron, and Stephen ... but they don't count, I mean cute boys!
  • I Just Want to Be Beautiful: The source of Raina's insecurities about her face.
  • Imagine Spot: Several times when Raina worries about what her braces/dental work will look like. Played with at the end, when she thinks her teeth look bad prior to her final cosmetic procedure, but none of her friends notice anything.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Raina's reaction to her orthodontist explaining they'll have to remove her two front teeth.
  • Jerkass: Raina's friends. They subtly bully and tease her even after she tells them to stop, and pull down her skirt, then laugh when she starts to cry.
    • The periodontist is implied to be such, given his expression when he deep cleans (under her gums) seems pretty sadistic.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Raina's friend Melissa joins in on teasing her, but she does seem to genuinely like Raina, sympathizing with her after Raina's 8th grade class learns about her crush on Sean. This is probably why Raina and Melissa hang out together the most, and why Raina is only comfortable with telling her about her crush on Sammy. In her last scene in the book (the first day of high school), Melissa tells Raina to smile more often.
    • Raina flip flops between this and Nice Girl, before settling on the latter.
  • Lovable Jock: Sean, Raina's 2nd crush.
  • Mama Bear: When Raina goes to a periodontist, the man does a deep cleaning (under the gums) without waiting for the novocaine to kick in, and also without asking her mother. Leaving the office, Raina sees her severely bruised and bloody gums in a mirror, then faints from shock and pain. Her ordinarily laid-back mother absolutely loses her shit and rips the doctor a new one, screaming at him about doing that kind of procedure on a minor without parental permission and causing said minor to pass out. His attempt to quiet her (so his other patients won't hear) only enrages her further.
  • Meet Cute: How Raina meets Sammy.
  • Nice Guy: Raina's crush in 7th Grade, Sammy. He's sweet and a bit shy, and doesn't judge Raina for her braces or acne. It's a shame she stands him up at the school dance. Sean, as well: Raina even remarks how he was always friendly to her.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Raina quickly befriends a cute and sweet 6th Grader named Sammy on her first day of 7th Grade; it's clear that the two have a crush on one another relatively quickly. By the time the next school dance is around the corner, however, Raina has a crush on another boy, Sean. Because of her conflicting emotions and disappointment Sean won't attend the dance, Raina doesn't go to the dance after promising Sammy she would. Heartbroken, Sammy breaks off his friendship with her.
    Adult!Raina: Sammy never spoke to me again after that. Which I guess I deserved.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Okay, 'villain' may be too harsh a word to describe Raina's bullies, but still: despite their bullying, Raina feels stuck as their friends. Then Karin and Nicole go too far and pants Raina in front of the entire school, causing her to realize that she should leave them behind.
  • The '90s: Raina is in 8th Grade in 1990 and the book ends in 1992 (her sophomore year).
  • Pants-Pulling Prank: Raina breaks up with her group of "friends" when one of them does this to her in the school cafeteria.
  • Pubescent Braces: Raina and Sam,
  • Rage Breaking Point: In the middle of her dental work ordeal, Raina puts up with a lot of teasing from her friends. Until, that is, some of them sneak up and jerk her skirt down in front of dozens of other students. Their defense that she was wearing tights underneath it (and thus obviously nothing was shown) cuts no ice with a furious Raina, who lambastes them for both that and the constant digs at her braces, and she stops hanging around with them immediately.
  • Reality Ensues: After Raina gets new friends, she narrates that her school life and grades didn't magically get better. She even lampshades that, no, she didn't "get the boy", as the saying goes.
  • Reconstruction: Of coming-of-age stories about young people who grow more self-confident in their appearance because of support from others. Unlike in most coming-of-age stories with a similar premise, Smile negatively portrays the protagonist's 1st group of friends and shows them to be at least part of the cause of Raina's insecurities. However, her self-esteem is boosted by her new friends' acceptance and her own recognition of her more important talents.
  • Rise of Zitboy: Realistically played but still present.
    Raina: A zitface. Now I'm a brace face and a zitface.
  • Sarcasm Mode: Raina's reaction to her father's suggestion to bang her head against the wall.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Zigzags between the two ends of the spectrum by not sugarcoating how hard adolescence can be, and by cutting Raina a break every now and then to show her appreciating some aspects of growing up. The ending, however, is firmly on the idealistic end. Especially the last bit of narration.
  • The Tooth Hurts: Raina smashes her two front teeth out with blood spurting everywhere in the first chapter.
  • True Companions: Raina's new group of friends are this to her.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Raina's lesson.
  • You Are Not Alone: A humorous example when Raina shows off her retainer to a Girl Scout meeting. They then show off their, much more interested-looking, retainers.


Sisters contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Raina and Amara share a few quips about how Nevada, the Silver state, seems to be more beige than anything else.
  • Art Evolution: Not only are the character designs more consistent this time around, but the colors are slightly cooler and deeper and all the text is typed.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Raina and Amara are starting to become closer together! And Mango is alive! Great! Oh wait, their parents' marriage is fraying and the two aren't happy together. Oh.
    • In real life, the Telgemeier parents divorced five years after the events of Sisters and are Amicable Exes.
  • Brutal Honesty: Of the Innocently Insensitive kind. When arguing over each other's fishes' flaws, Raina casually points out:
    Young Raina: Your fish is dead.
    Young Amara: (Starts crying)
  • Darker and Edgier: The story is a mature look at the two sister's relationship and depicts a failing marriage while Smile is slightly more comedic and is more about Raina discovering who she is as a person.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Sue leaves Raina and Amara in a car alone for several hours in the Arizona (?) desert. This was more acceptable in the early 1990s, when the story is set, but would be looked upon more harshly nowadays. To her credit, Sue does regret treating her daughters this way.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Invoked when her little sister Amara starts growing up, but even before then, the sisters often argued and fought.
  • Meaningful Name: While Amara means “immortal” and “love”, it also means “bitter one” in Latin. Amara is bitter about her place in the family and her bad relationship with Raina.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Amara, big time.
  • Opposites Attract: Raina's parents. Her mom is a hippie Granola Girl who picks 'meaningful' names for her children ("Raina" because she was born while it was raining, "Amara" because it means "immortal" in Sanskrit and "love" in Latin, and "Will" because it was God's will that she have a son). Her dad, on the other hand, is a fairly straight-laced computer programmer who works a 9-to-5 job.
  • Siblings Wanted: In a flashback, Raina is seen in this phase as a child before Amara was born.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Raina is terrified of snakes, and does not react well when Amara gets a pet corn snake for her birthday one year.
  • World of Snark: Replace "world" with "family" and it works perfectly. Both Amara and Raina can be pretty wry at times.

Alternative Title(s): Smile, Smileand Sisters


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