Early in the autobiographical graphic novel, Raina, a middle-schooler, falls and knocks out her two front teeth. This leads to a series of dental and orthodontic procedures in attempt to fix the damage. Her dental progress serves as a lens for her personal growth as Raina navigates the shifting landscape of adolescence through middle school and into high school.
Even though this story takes place in late 80s and early 90s San Francisco, Telgemeier depicts timeless themes of self-image and identity in the turbulent world of adolescence. She addresses painful topics with bright imagery and a positive attitude. Like Drama and Sisters, Smile treats life with a hopeful tone which makes for enjoyable reading.