Book of the Month Club: This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki

Detail from the cover of Detail from the cover of "This One Summer".

Rose and Windy, best friends, always go to Awago for their summer, staying in their summer cottages. But this year will be different. Between hiding under blankets while trying to watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Jaws, developing crushes on the local convenience store worker, experimenting with new words, and spying on the teenagers, Rose and Windy’s story extends to their parents and the other people in the area. It seems like a simple summer, one of the last summers Rose and Windy will have before they become another one of the local teens, but when Rose’s father leaves for the city and the convenience store worker’s girlfriend claims she is pregnant, summer for these two girls becomes a season for experiences and growing up.

I enjoyed the characters, particularly Rose, who is a complex and well thought out character. She is realistic as a girl on the cusp of childhood and acts accordingly, trying to fit in with the older crowd but can still be whimsical and funny with her best friend. Windy is a funny, typical eleven or twelve year old with a bit more than obvious sugar addiction. They react to things like sex and swear words appropriately for their age, grossed out but curious at the same time, and it is fun to watch them learn and heartbreaking to watch them deal with their individual problems, particularly with Rose and her parents.

Excerpt from "This One Summer" by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki.

Excerpt from “This One Summer” by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki.

Book illustration and layout are well-planned. Characters look their age, and their facial expressions, even when they don’t say anything, speak volumes as to how they feel. In one panel, an illustration of Rose, who is in her room in bed, but wide awake listening to her parents argue, seems to speak of fear and sadness and loneliness all in a few strokes of a pen. The ending is humorous, but everything doesn’t seem to be resolved, and perhaps that’s the point.

Cousins Jillian and Mariko Tamaki have created a wonderful graphic novel that manages to be funny, dramatic, and sad at the same time. While recommended for children 12+, I would suggest that this book be read by older teenagers capable of understanding the book’s themes and capable of handling the book’s at times strong language from the older characters. Recommended reading.