Review: This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki

18465566 Title: This One Summer

Authors: Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

Publisher: First Second

Publication Date: May 2014

ISBN: 9781626720947

This One Summer

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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.

I was skeptical about this graphic novel when I first picked it up. I held back from purchasing it because, although the artwork is lovely, the price didn’t seem worth the lack of dialogue within the images. I thought I was in for a childish story, better suited for younger readers. I wanted to buy a complex story, not a piece of art. So I borrowed it from a friend. After reading this graphic novel, speeding through it in only an hour, I’m convinced I need to buy a copy for myself.

This story encapsulates that moment in time, framed within the context of a single summer, where a young girl begins her transition from childhood into adulthood, becoming aware of the struggles, complexities, and responsibilities that accompany this turbulent change. Rose and Windy are a year and a half apart in age, rose being the oldest. They are best friends in cottage country and from what I could gather, their lives and experiences together until now, have been innocent, fun, and pure. The year that we meet these two girls is different though. Their friends are hitting puberty and Rose especially has become aware of the world of sex, romance, depression, and adult responsibility. Through complex, monochromatic images, portrayed through the eyes of a child seeking to understand her changing world, Jillian and Mariko convey the universal experiences of loss and confusion that are attached to maturation and adulthood: loss of innocence, coming to understand a new body, confusion feelings.

What really made this story great was that although it is marketed towards younger readers (Chapters sells it in the juvenile graphic novel section), it draws upon the common human experience to relate to readers of all age. Rose’s mother struggles with with the loss of her unborn baby. Her sadness is not something that she is able to communicate to Rose, and her daughter, already struggling with her own transition, lashes out in anger and frustration at seeing her mothers lack of motivation and the tension that exists between her parents. At the same time, Rose seeks to distance herself from her childhood friend. She is at once desiring to hold on to the laughter of her childhood and to create distance from anything that makes her more childish and less adult. She is unable to judge those older than her, particularly and older girl who becomes pregnant out of wedlock, trying to form her own opinions, but her immaturity only allows her to reflect the harsh opinions of the older teenagers around her. Rose attempts to find independence, but she is still too young to full grasp what independence really is. She is a child playing dress up: putting on the too-large shoes and the oversized dress–still a child beneath, but attempting to appear older.

This was a surprisingly excellent read. I would definitely recommend it to anyone. We all experience those transitory stages of growing up and finding our ways as individuals and adults. We all understand what it’s like to want to know more of the world around us and to try and cast off those perceptions of us as childish or immature. Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s story beautifully, simply, and elegantly portrays the internal struggle of adolescence.

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