When I pick up a well-loved graphic novel (especially one that is recommended by other authors/artists I really enjoy), I am always reminded of why I love the format so much. A picture really is worth a thousand words in This One Summer, by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki. I flew though this book, completely lost in the the story of Rose, Windy, and their families.
Rose and her mom and dad are going to their summer home on Awago Beach, which they have visited every year since she can remember. This year, though, things don’t feel quite as fun and easy for nearly-teenaged Rose. Her mother is sullen and detached; her father is trying to have a good time but seems to be struggling to put on a happy face. Rose’s Aunt Jodie, who says she will “never have kids because she is too much of a kid herself,” comes to visit with her husband, whose carefree attitude seems to aggravate Rose’s mom even more.
Meanwhile Rose and Windy, best summer friends since childhood, are also finding their differences: the two girls are starting to form strong opinions, and sometimes they find that they don’t agree on things. This is especially apparent when they begin to get obsessed by the plight of the local 18-year-olds who hang out around the town’s general store (and who seem to have a lot of drama in their lives). Windy and Rose curiously listen in on their conversations, finding any excuse to go to the store where two of the boys work.
I loved the scenes between Windy and Rose. At each other’s houses or at the beach, the girls alternate between exuberant play and serious discussion as they wonder about the local teens. On the beach, Windy performs hilarious monologues about hitting puberty, and talks with Rose about being adopted by her free-spirited mom. Windy, by the way, is hilarious:
Realizing that their parents are human and that life can be difficult is bittersweet for Rose and Windy. This One Summer tackles some pretty heavy themes and occasionally uses some salty language, but it does so in a sensitive and realistic way. The pictures are beautiful, adding a lovely expressiveness to the setting and characters. Windy is a great lighthearted counter to Rose’s sometimes dark moods, and their honest insights are both funny and painfully true-to-life. This beautiful little novel captures perfectly the feeling of summer, of vacation, and of growing up. This is definitely a new favourite.