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This One Summer

Review

This One Summer

Cousins Jillian and Mariko Tamaki again collaborate on a stellar graphic novel --- THIS ONE SUMMER. This time, the topic is summer vacation and the bittersweet pains of growing up.

Rose and her parents have been coming to a cottage on Awago Beach each summer since Rose was five. The time she's spent there forms a huge component of her childhood memories, her family stories and even her sense of self. It's the kind of place that's reassuring in its predictability, the kind of place you can return to each year and be confident that things will have stayed the same.

This summer, though, everything at Awago Beach seems different. Rose is on the verge of adolescence, for one thing, and she's developed a keen interest in the activities, liaisons, and interpersonal dramas of the older teen "townies," particularly Duncan, a beanpole of a guy who works at a little convenience store and always remembers Rose's fondness for Twizzlers.

Both the text and the illustrations do a fantastic job of balancing Rose's inner life with the world of Awago Beach

Rose's family isn't quite the same, either. Ever since they stopped trying to have another baby, Rose's mom has been withdrawn and angry, and Rose's dad has been trying to put a smiling face on a bad situation. This contrast seems even worse at Awago Beach, where Rose's mom refuses to even go in the water while Rose's dad just wants the family to have fun. Rose, too, wishes that her family could revive the little traditions that meant so much to her in previous years, but that doesn't seem likely this summer.

Even Rose's friendship with Windy, who's like the little sister Rose never had, seems different somehow. Windy's a year and a half younger than Rose, and despite her apparent fondness for horror movies, she's starting to seem sort of childish (and occasionally embarrassing) to Rose.

Like many young teenagers, Rose's preoccupations alternate between her family and her social life, or the one she aspires to. Both the text and the illustrations do a fantastic job of balancing Rose's inner life with the world of Awago Beach. Jillian Tamaki's detailed illustrations are rendered in various warmly-hued shades of grey, and capture Rose's interactions with people and the natural world equally well. A pile of beach stones, a vista of bonfires stretching along the beach, a scene of a girl on a bike --- all add up to depict Rose's particular summer.

Cousins Jillian and Mariko Tamaki have previously collaborated on the graphic novel SKIM, about a girl trying both to fit in and stand out at her all-girls' private school in the early 1990s. With that work and this one, the cousins have shown themselves to be particularly adept at capturing the bittersweet life of teenage girls, full of hope, anxiety and heartbreak. THIS ONE SUMMER will have readers eagerly awaiting a return to their own summer place --- and will be remembered long after summer is over.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on May 7, 2014

This One Summer
by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

  • Publication Date: May 6, 2014
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: First Second
  • ISBN-10: 159643774X
  • ISBN-13: 9781596437746