Thursday, December 11, 2014

Review of This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

Since I wrote a retro review earlier in the week about a YA title that looked at the space between childhood and adolescence, I’ll follow up with a discussion about This One Summer, which is a graphic novel that explores a similar theme. I am a graphic novel novice – I didn’t read many comic books as a kid, and I’m not particularly drawn to the format as an adult. But I know that graphic novels appeal to many readers, so I decided to try this one out.

The story, which is written and illustrated by a pair of cousins, involves two tween girls who spend the summer with their families near a Canadian lake. They are simultaneously little girls who frolic and emerging teens encountering the danger and thrill of the adult world for the first time. One girl’s growing awareness of womanhood and motherhood is particularly poignant.

Though this is marketed as a book for young people, I think adults are the best audience. There is something searing about the moment when you feel your childhood slipping away, and perhaps it’s a moment that is only recognized in retrospect. Would a kid in the midst of that moment understand it?

Interestingly, that moment is captured here in pictures, not in words. As someone who reads very, very quickly, it took work to slow down and experience this kind of storytelling visually.

For example, one of the girls is slowly learning about her mother’s grief and the way it affects her parents’ marriage. Jillian Tamaki, the illustrator, captures this growing awareness in the girl’s eyes:

In a May 2014 New Yorker article, Tamaki says that her task as the visual artist is “to make things specific and visceral.” And with that, I’m struck by the collaborative nature of graphic novels with different writers and illustrators. It would be interesting to learn more about the negotiation that must take place to bring a single story to life.

You can read an interview with the writer and the illustrator here.

And here’s an article about the growth in the graphic novel genre.

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