Raina tells the tale of her adolescence mostly through her dental work. In 7th grade, Raina found out that she would have to have braces to correct an overbite, then she fell and knocked out her front teeth, leading to years of painful braces and headgear and procedures. And while that is an important part of the story, that's not really star of the show. Raina is also growing up, losing old friends, making new friends, developing her interests and personality. At it's core, this story is about growth.
I didn't actually realize that this book was set in the 1990's until the San Francisco earthquake story. I honestly thought it was more contemporary than that, but as a child of the 1990's, I really appreciated some of the throw backs, like Exclamation perfume. They still make that stuff by-the-way, in case you miss smelling like 1994.
Since this is a graphic novel, some parts are actually graphic and had me a little queasy. For example, Raina gets a deep gum cleaning, which sounds horrible, and the picture is likely not as bad as I thought, but it made me light headed for a second.
Raina's short, ill-fated, flirtation with the 6th grader was spot on. She liked him, but couldn't take her friends teasing, so she bowed to convention and they stopped being friends at all. We've all had that moment, but you can tell that Raina regrets it, like most of us, and that's a learning experience.
I can see why this book is so popular. The graphic format was not too overwhelming for a non-graphic reader like me and the book was both cringe-inducing and heartfelt. Telgemeier has a second graphic novel out called Drama, and I just read this morning that she is signed on for two more graphic novels, so I definitely look forward to her future books.