Book Review: This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Kamaki (4/5)

18465566 YA Fiction, Graphic Novels

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.

I don’t usually pick up graphic novels, but the first few pages promised a coming-of-age story ripe with that literary gleam of pictures and illustrations. And This One Summer delivered.

Let’s get one thing straight – this isn’t a “for fun” read. It’s literary; which mean its main purpose isn’t to entertain. It is speaking to the grander scheme of the human condition (or whatever) and it’s more along the lines of a book you’d read in English class. But, I went into it expecting that, so I didn’t find the exposure of adult situations or the protagonist’s bystander-observations of those situations to be plotless or stupid. (Some people did.)

The plot isn’t about saving the world or stopping a killer; it is about a girl on the edges of childhood, a few steps from becoming a young woman, a few steps away from puberty, and this new world of adult problems is opening up before her during This One Summer; her mother and father are fighting, her mother is experiencing some hardcore depression, and there a girl in town who’s pregnant and the father won’t step up. All of these plots are observed through the eyes of a preteen girl who doesn’t necessary understand it all, but she wants to, and to her these things come as ground-shaking events.

And to me, as an adult woman, I can find myself in the MC – Rose. I remember when I thought my parents had all the answers, that they always knew what to do, that they were always right and nothing bad would happen to me or them or the people I knew. And then we grow up and things like depression happen, and no one can really explain it. We hear words like “miscarriage” for the first time. This graphic novel does a fantastic job of showing those revelations as the road bumps they are in the preteen mind; it is showing the whittling away of childhood’s naivety and innocence.

And the art style, oh the art style! This is such a beautiful novel. While I am not the biggest fan of graphic novels, I do respect the medium. A graphic novel has a very unique way of showing a story through setting and through little things that otherwise would be overlooked, or would be obnoxious to put into a written story. We have to infer the emotions rather than read about them.

I don’t know if I would have liked This One Summer better had it been a written novel. A part of me suspects that I wouldn’t have even picked it up. I read this graphic novel in less than four hours; it was a very quick read.

Overall, I give This One Summer a 4 out of 5. It might be YA, but I think adults will get more out of it. Because I was able to see all sides of the story; from the preteen Rose, her mother, and the young adult Jenny – it shows the different angles of being a woman and how it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.


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