Every summer, Rose and her family pack up and head to their cottage in Awago Beach. There, the long days melt into lake swims and beach fires, counting stars, five-cent candies, watching movies and running around with her summer-sister, Windy.
It’s summertime, and the living is easy, right?
But this year something feels off. In the young adult graphic novel This One Summer, published in 2014, cousins and co-authors, Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, depict the season where Rose and Windy start to mature out of childhood, and find it’s not always smooth sailing. Jillian and Mariko are both Canadian. Jillian lives in Toronto and Mariko now lives in Oakland, California.
Beautifully illustrated and bittersweet, the authors conjure a youthful summer holiday in the book’s pages and brilliantly convey the humour and discomfort that accompanies the journey of growing up.
This year’s visit to Awago Beach is palpably tense: Rose’s mom is in fickle and irritable moods, her parents are always fighting and things aren’t as easy as they used to be. Rose finds solace in the company of her dear chum, Windy, but when the two girls get caught up in an unfolding teenage drama in the small town, a mixture of confusing feelings come with it. The teenagers are cool, aloof and up to interesting (and from an adult perspective, no-good) teenager things.
As the young girls start on the path of adolescence, they imagine the future and compare boob sizes amidst frequent visits to the corner store where a crush on the boy who works there feeds Rose’s emotional turmoil.
Part of growing up is becoming more aware of other people and your relation to them. As Rose and Windy become more observant of their surroundings, we see them awkwardly relinquish some of the blissful ignorance of their youth.
A terrific part about the novel is how the authors reach their young audience by assuming a level of emotional intelligence. Young adult fiction walks a fine boundary between being too childish or too uncouth, both which would alienate their audience. Some may see the profanity and topics as too mature for young adults (in fact it was banned from libraries in Minnesota and Florida last year due to some of the content). However, This One Summer is written in such an accepting way that it enables a young reader to safely approach the subject matter — one of the many wonderful things about storytelling! And it is precisely this expectation of preexisting knowledge — in language and social know-what — that makes the novel such a compatible and sympathetic read for adolescents.
Also, because summer holds a type of warm nostalgia for all of us, pairing the season with the discomfort of growing up makes This One Summer an enjoyable (though more sentimental) read for adults, too.
From reviews in the New York Times to winning a Governor General’s Literary Award in 2014, This One Summer garnered international praise upon its release. And it’s easy to see why: honest, sweet and relatable, and with gorgeous illustrations, Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki created a stirring graphic novel and something that will be continuously enjoyed for many years to come.
This One Summer was published in 2014. While the Yukon Public Library does not have a copy of this book, other graphic novels by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki can be found at the library, including: SuperMutant Magic Academy (Jillian Tamaki, 2015); Indoor Voice (Jillian Tamaki, 2011); and Skim (Mariko Tamaki, 2008).