by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki
started: March 8, 2018 | finished: March 14, 2018
Following Rose as she transitions from tween to teen, This One Summer focuses on what it means to be a girl trying to figure out for yourself how the world works, as well as, how the world can shape teenage girls.
I could have easily read this in one sitting, but I somehow managed to make myself pace it out to a week. Mariko & Jillian have a way of presenting the material in a way that makes you want to stay in their world as long as you can. This is a very slow and quiet book, if that’s not what you’re into, you will not enjoy it. Luckily, those are the books that I love the most and I was entertained the entire way through.
The story seems to be a point of disappointment or even contention when it comes to reviews on goodreads. There are a lot of people claiming that there is no plot or that nothing happened. I could not disagree more. No, there’s not a lot happening on the surface, but there is a whole lot happening psychologically. We see while Rose navigates the summer around wanting to be a part of the world that is the late teens/early twenties group of locals who frequent or work in the convenience store near the cabin, but also wanting to spend it being a kid. She wants to be grown-up, but she doesn’t understand what that means yet. She tries out watching horror movies, attempting to impress the convenience store clerk that she has a crush on, she tries out using their language, primarily in the word “slut”, which gets her into trouble with her mom, she tries out understanding and imagining sexual situations which only confuses her more. The entire time, she’s surrounded by childhood, by Windy, her friend who is 10, by the cabin that her and her parents stay in every year since she was little, by the actual grownups reminding her that she is not yet one of them. She’s on this precipice and she’s teetering along it the entire summer.
Another thing that I keep seeing claimed is that there is no development on Roses part, and to that I have to say: read between the lines. No, Rose never says anything to the amount of “I was wrong. I’ve learned my lesson.” There’s no philosophical espousing to show her working through the summer problems (probably because she’s 12 and how many 12 year olds sit around espousing philosophically?). However, at the end, she begins to shift. It’s a quiet shift, yes, but a shift nonetheless. She learns the truth about why her mother is depressed and there’s a hint that her mother may finally talk to Rose about it once they leave. She digs a hole with Windy because it’s what Windy wants to do and we see that they’re coming back together. She sees that the guys in the convenience store are just kids, not unlike her. She genuinely hopes that Jenny is alright. But, most importantly, we see her getting ready to leave, her bag is too heavy. This a metaphor. She is weighed down by the summer, by what happened, and, in the end, we see that she has left all the things that she had collected that summer, a pile of rocks, sticks, and items that she found on the ground, mostly at the teens’ campsite that she and Windy stumble upon. She is moving forward from this summer by leaving behind all the things that were weighing her down. And the final line, “Maybe I will have massive boobs. Boobs would be cool.” She’s still looking forward to growing up, but now that growing up is about her and who she will be. As well, it’s something that is far off, something that hasn’t happened yet. She’s waiting rather than trying to make it happen.
This seems to be the second thing that a lot of people on goodreads don’t like: Rose. Rose seems to have rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, and I get it, but, at the same time, I don’t. Rose is a typical 12 year old going on 13. She believes that she understands how the world works, even though she doesn’t. She believes that everything is black and white, even though it isn’t. She a flawed character because most 12 year olds are flawed in that they’re still figuring out empathy and that just because a cute boy says something that doesn’t mean that its true. What makes this so poignant, and probably why people are so turned off by it, is that at the beginning of the book, we like Rose. We see her as a fun kid who’s just enjoying the summer. Then we see the truth, that she’s flawed, that she doesn’t get it, that she is still a kid who wants to believe that she’s grown up without actually understanding what that means. This is a very real depiction of what it means not just to be 12 years old, but, more importantly, what it means to be a 12 year old girl.
I do have to bring up another person’s review where they said:
“I don’t know how old both girls are in this graphic novel – don’t recall it being mentioned – but they were very immature. Too immature. They’re always talking about grown-up stuff – sex, babies, blowjobs, parents, boobs – and giving their opinions which sometimes are, yes theirs, but also most of the time unnecessary and seldom accurate.”
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU TALKED TO A 12 YEAR OLD? And I don’t mean in a family or large get together setting where adults are around either. 12 year olds yearn to be grown up, they’re nearly the magical 13, the year that everything’s supposed to change and they’re a teen, which, in a 12 year old’s eyes, is practically adulthood. They talk about what they think are grown up things that they are just starting to learn about or beginning to enter their peripheral. They don’t understand any of it yet (because, of course they don’t) but they want to believe that they do, they want their peers to believe that they do, because that would make them cool, that would make them grown up.
The writing style is quiet and simple, often allowing the images to really get the idea across. We hear Rose’s thoughts when we need to, but for the most part, we are simply there with her. However, the writing is never a second thought to the art. Both are balanced wonderfully and are what make this book so great.
So, the art. My GOD the art! It is amazing. I love supporting graphic novels that utilize an art style that separates itself from the typical comic book or manga style and this book definitely falls into that category. The settings are amazingly detailed and realistic, the character designs are great, the atmosphere and mood that is create—it’s all wonderful!
This book is both beautiful and well written. The story is both simple and complex. It’s a book that I could tear apart and analyze to death. At the same time, I’m confident that a kid could get just as much out of it, at the very least it can begin some very important conversations about growing up and what it means to be female in a world that prefers the male view. Yet another book to add to my when-I-have-a-disposable-income-again list.