When you see a goofy picture like this on the front cover, you assume it’s a silly story. Although the book does have some humorous moments, it is basically an autobiographical slice of the author’s life. Like the main character Raina, the author Raina had a mishap that seriously damaged several teeth in the front of her mouth when she was in middle school. After an emergency visit to her pediatric dentist, she was sent to an orthodontist, then an endodentist. It took several years of treatment before her mouth looked normal again.
Throughout the book, Raina is very self-conscious about her damaged mouth. She has to put up with more than the average person with braces. For awhile, she has temporary teeth, headgear, and long rubber bands to try to correct her jaw bite. Her friends tease her, only meaning to be funny, but it makes her sad. To make things worse, she meets a really cool guy who she would like to spend time with, but she thinks he is repulsed by her mouth. Although not everything works out perfectly, Raina is able to make a new set of friends at school, keep things civil with her old friends, and finally work her way to a normal mouthful of teeth.
I think this book is most fitting for middle school kids. Raina is in 6th grade at the beginning of the story, right at that time in life when friends are ultra-important and boys are starting to look good. She experiences her first kiss, which is a milestone in life. By the end of the story, she is an eighth-grader, and ready to move on to high school.
But those younger and older than middle school can also enjoy the book. Elementary-age kids with braces will relate to how Raina feels every time she has to go to the orthodontist, or how it feels to be teased by friends. Many adults may identify with the story as well, especially those who have been in a bike or car accident that left them with dental damage. I’m not much of a graphic novel reader, but even I loved this story!