Contemporary · Graphic Novel · Middle Grade · review

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki, Mariko Tamaki

18465566Paperback, 320 pages
Expected publication: May 6th 2014 by First Second
Source: Publisher

Synopsis:
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. One of the local teens – just a couple of years older than Rose and Windy – is caught up in something bad… Something life threatening.

It’s a summer of secrets, and sorrow, and growing up, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.

Review:

This book – what a book. Rich and provocative, beautiful and poignant – honestly I lack the words to properly convey how much this book meant to me.

I had the kind of ideal childhood that people usually read about. Rambunctious cousins, felicity of the mornings, sugarcane farms, freshly tilled fields and an innocence that permeated our lives. The art in this graphic novel evoked the feelings in me that growing in Fiji made me feel. Jillian manages to capture, for me, that exuberance of childhood. Those golden moments suspended in time and memory where all was right with the world and life was all about the feel of the sand under our feet.

Rose and Windy are two friends who meet once a year when their families go out to their summer cabins in Awago. Rose and Windy are both on the cusp of, if not adulthood, then something, that transient period of existence which is less innocent than childhood but less cynical than adulthood. Rose’s mother is going through issues which are real and serious but at the same time, does not excuse the way Rose is treated. I often feel that parents ask children to understand things they are not equipped to. They are often told to excuse crappy parenting simply because the parents are going through stuff and I don’t know how I feel about that. I mean, I understand that parents are people and are individuals with lives and feelings outside of their relationship with their children but at the same time, I resent that children have to bear burdens they are too young for. I aligned myself with Rose and felt as angry as she did at her mother. I loved her father because Rose loved him.

Then there’s Windy who is a Puck-like character, fey, fickle and oddly difficult to pin down. She straddles both childhood and adolescence and her innocence is charming. She is a great foil to Rose’s character who is calm and more acerbic understandably. Their friendship is subtle; one initially maintained by habit but by the end sustained by a sincere fondness for each other. I love how subtle everything is in the novel. Mariko’s writing is perfectly in tune with the truly gorgeous art and multiple readings will evoke multiple flavours from the narrative.

Rose and Windy both do some growing up in the course of the narrative. Interestingly enough, they are, oftentimes, situated as viewers and observers whether of movies or of real life and I guess that is kind of what growing up is all about. When you stop observing and start taking part? When you separate yourself from your parents and start acting on your own. I don’t know what else to say except that I truly loved this book.

I sincerely recommend this book to anyone who loves beautiful books.

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