Formerly published in Ricepaper Magazine
THIS ONE SUMMER
By Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
Groundwood Books (May 6, 2014)
320 Pages, $17.99 (Paperback Graphic Novel)
REVIEWED BY ELLIOT CHAN
Awago Beach has been a summer sanctuary for Rose and her parents for as long as she can remember. Fresh air, a private lakeside cabin, and Rose’s friend, Windy, make up for the monotonous humdrum of childhood vacations. But, this one summer, Rose dares to overstep her boundaries. Fueled by fascination, naive yearning, and repressed angst, Rose becomes entrenched with the complicated lives of the local teenagers and her parents themselves—in addition to bingeing on candy and horror movies.
This One Summer flows like a dreamy, lazy July afternoon, the kind that doesn’t last forever, unless in our memories. The humorous yet meditative storytelling plays on the reader’s nostalgia, while the illustrations offer a vantage of yesteryears that many of us are beginning to misremember. The coming-of-age graphic novel is sincere, captivating, and poignant, but most of all it is a faithful rendering of both ephemeral and intense moments that makes up a season in a life.
Mariko and Jillian Tamaki skillfully capture the subtleties of adolescence, teenage-hood, and even adulthood. With a few simple frames and some indispensible words, the hesitation of youth, the dynamic of a modern family, and the consequences of reckless decisions are fully presented with a heartfelt attitude that is pure and powerful.
This One Summer is the Tamaki cousins’ second full-length collaboration. In 2008 their graphic novel, Skim, a story about the culture and conflicts at an all-girl Catholic school, received wide acclaim for its equally passionate presentation of the younger generation. There is no doubt that there is a harmonized understanding between the two artists. The ability to place the microscope on such a tender corner of existence is an element that is often absent in most of life’s maturing ventures.
Mariko and Jillian remind us in This One Summer that new experiences have no age restrictions, and that coming of age is actually a lifelong endeavour. Although the focal point of the story is on Rose, she is in fact the supporting character to the real drama of those around her. We have all stood where she stood, at the perimeter of other’s lives, helpless to assist, and powerless to disengage. We ride the turbulent waves, while witnessing the ebb and flow of those around us. This stunningly candid graphic novel, in the end, encourages us all to stand by those we love and overcome the adversity of another fleeting summer.