Friday, June 06, 2014

Teen/YA Review: This One Summer

I don’t read a lot of graphic novels, and most of the ones I have read have been targeted at middle-grade readers or younger and were fun and light. So, I was pleasantly surprised by the emotional depth, intricate story, and well-developed characters conveyed with so few words in This One Summer, a wonderful teen/YA graphic novel by authors (and cousins) Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki.

Rose, a young adolescent, loves Awago Beach, the tiny town where her family returns every year to spend their summer at the lake in their rustic little cottage. But things are different this year. Her parents are fighting constantly, her mother doesn’t want to do any of their favorite things, and even Rose’s best friend, Windy, seems a bit immature this summer. Windy is her summer friend, and the two girls always hang out together all summer at Awago Beach, even though Windy is a year and a half younger than Rose.

Like always, Rose and Windy swim and ride their bikes, have campfires and cookouts on the beach with their families, and watch movies and laugh together. Some things are the same, but everything feels different to Rose this year, and she is fascinated by the soap-opera like happenings of the older teens who hang out at the tiny general store. She has a crush on the clerk there, but Windy would never understand that, and the boy doesn’t seem to know Rose exists, as he is wrapped up in his own dramas.

Copyright Jillian & Mariko Tamaki, from

It’s hard to explain just how amazing this book is, and how much emotion is conveyed through its gray-scale (more like blue-scale, actually) drawings, as you can see in the example I included here from the authors' website. With the pictures and its spare text, you feel all that Rose is feeling: the warmth and tradition of returning to a special place every summer, the agony of family disturbances, and the bittersweet process of growing up and feeling everything so strongly.

The authors have perfectly captured both summer vacation and what it feels like to be an adolescent torn between childhood and teen-dom.  The drawings are realistic and express so much emotion on every single page that you feel like you are there with Rose, experiencing the specialness of Awago Beach and the confusion of that summer. Highly recommended and sure to be a hit with teen girls especially. Just writing about it makes me want to go back and read it all again.

319 pages, First Second

NOTE: The novel does deal with some difficult subjects, like teen pregnancy and adult grief, that might be disturbing to younger kids, although the main character seems to be about 12 or 13. Younger readers might want to talk about some of the more confusing or disturbing aspects of the story with an adult.

To see more of the authors' work, visit Jillian Tamaki's website


1 comment:

  1. Great review. Thanks to this review and your comment on my blog i am going to recommend its inclusion on our Mock Printz list.