The move from child to teenager is an anticipated moment in our lives. Who among us doesn’t have a memory of watching an older brother or sister and admiring their freedom, their apparent maturity, and their knowledge of “adult-like” issues? In our tween-age years we count the days until we too are considered mature. The process is so seamless, however, we don’t tend to recognize the moments that attribute to our maturity. We don’t recognize the changes until they are significant enough—and psychical enough to see them.
What makes This One Summer, written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, so enjoyable is the chronicling of these events in a way that appeals to our sense of nostalgia,
The graphic novel follows the story of Rose and Windy, two friends whose families meet annually to spend a couple of weeks at a small lake town. Their friendship is light, easy, and full of senseless imagination. Although, amidst their games, and antics, the questions they ask one another reflect a very real desire to understand the world around them. Rose, in particular, becomes fascinated with the local teenagers of the town, specifically the relationship between a store clerk (whom she develops a crush on) and his girlfriend. Through these observations, there is a very clear struggle Rose faces between wanting to “mature” and wanting to keep her friendship with the slightly younger Windy, static.
Although the two main characters are young, the book focuses on a variety of mature themes. The unexpected, and traumatic pregnancy of one of the teenagers; her mother’s struggle with depression; her parent’s attempts to overcome that hardship and the disparity between them as they fail to communicate with one another. All occur around Rose and Windy, and the girls are never made privy to the full story, thus furthering the gap between them and the world of the “mature” adult.
As the story progresses, these outside elements touch Rose in an emotional way, as she chooses to close herself off from her parents and friends as she struggles to understand what is happening around her. The graphic novel takes a serious, dramatic turn at its climax, complimented with illustrations that highlight the distress and emotional frustration of many of the characters.
Overall, this YA graphic novel is poignant with its messages, and mature in its subject matter. It can easily be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates the graphic novel format. Beautiful and thought provoking, This One Summer is highly recommended.
Enjoyablility: **** 1/2 /5