Hello my lovelies! I’m so sorry for not posting as much as I normally do. As some of you know, I am part of a team setting up a new school at which I am the librarian. After a series of setbacks (think contractor delays, backordered materials, and so on) we are finally in our building and I have made my way about 80% of the way through our roughly 32, 000 books (text books, teaching resources, and library collection all combined). Needless to say, I haven’t had as much time as I would like for my own personal activities lately!
As I haven’t been able to read as much as I normally do with our extended work schedule, I decided to revisit one of my favourite graphic novels This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki. This isn’t your run of the mill high-action YA graphic novel, but rather it’s slow and thoughtful contemplation on family dynamics and the coming of age, and as a result it tends to have mixed reviews. For this reason alone I have decided against assigning a starred rating in my review, as it is the type of book that everyone will experience so very, very differently. Personally though, I think it’s an absolutely wonderful read, especially for those older teens who are experiencing the pains of once-close friends growing apart.
Title: This One Summer
Author: Jillian Tamaki
Illustrator: Mariko Tamaki
Expected Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Genre: Graphic Novel, YA Fiction, Fiction
Themes: Relationships, Friendship, Coming of Age, Family
My Rating: – / 5
Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It’s their getaway, their refuge. Rosie’s friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It’s a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.
In This One Summer two stellar creators redefine the teen graphic novel. Cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, the team behind Skim, have collaborated on this gorgeous, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful story about a girl on the cusp of her teen age — a story of renewal and revelation.
Okay, so this book won’t be for everyone. I’ve known that from the minute I first cracked the cover. It deals with some tough topics including teen pregnancy, the way girls in particular treat each other, the long lasting effects that miscarriages can have on families, and the ways in which friendships can grow apart as youth mature at different ages. There is no sugar coating, everything is exposed, and I have come across more than a few people that found this baby uncomfortable to read.
Rose is the kind of protagonist that you love to hate. She is actually horrible, and as much as this book is about her, it isn’t about her at all. Her mother is going through a tough time, her father doesn’t know how to support her, and rose being and angsty teen doesn’t do anything to make the situation any better. Throw in there some first crushes, the desire to see your body go through puberty and acquire some assets, and the societal pressures that girls might feel when they are transitioning from child to desirable and you get Rose. The perfect little monster.
I loved Windy too, the way that she holds onto her innocence and her childhood just that little bit longer than her friend. Of all the characters, I related with her the most because I was that girl, the one who still dig beach holes, practiced bad dancing in the living room, and was more interested in playing games and infatuated by the wonders of the world than I ever cared about boys. It was really beautiful to see the differences between the girls, and the families as whole, as it really highlighted the different ways in which people and communities address adversity. Ultimately though, the story is about Rose’s mother, Alice. I won’t say too much because I don’t want to give everything away, but my heart genuinely broke as all the puzzle pieces fell into place. I wanted nothing more than to reach through the pages and hug her.
While I am normally a fan of graphic novels in colour, I really loved how This One Summer was in grayscale. Not only did it leave more room for the imagination to fill in the fine details, for me it really highlighted the fact that there are so many things in life that occupy the grey space beyond black and white. I love too that the majority of the action is implied – this book demands a lot of it’s readers in terms of engagement and as such I wouldn’t recommend it as a first or even early read for those unfamiliar with graphic novels. Many of the frames and transitions are deliberately ambiguous, and there are a significant number of aspect-to-aspect transitions that are not as common in western graphic novels which may confuse some readers or come across as ‘slow reading’. The result however, is a finely crafted mood that envelopes the entire reading experience and truly enhances everything the characters experienced over the summer.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! But it does come with a few words of caution. Even though this is a YA graphic novel, there are some readers who just might not be ready for it yet. And for older readers too, it simply may not appeal to their aesthetic or desire for fast-paced graphic novels. Regardless, This One Summer takes on some big issues that aren’t talked about enough, and it is exactly the type of book that fight to keep in libraries no matter how many challenges it might face!