I’d probably need all my fingers and toes to count the graphic novels that didn’t live up to their hype (Watchmen, Black Hole, Ghost World, Jimmy Corrigan. . . just to name a few). However Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s This One Summer, doesn’t just live up to the hype, it blows the hype out of the water because the hype could never, ever live up to this beautiful and touching graphic novel.
Pre-teen Rose and her parents spend every summer at a cottage in Awago. They’ve been doing this so long, Rose has a summer friend, Windy. Windy just a year(ish) younger than Rose, but they are great summer buddies. There is a sameness to their summers, a sort of childish monotony that rings true. They explore the small beach town together, swim endlessly, and buy candy from the corner store.
Unique to this summer is that Rose is starting to discover her interest in boys, especially the clerk at that corner store where they buy Twizzlers and rent horror movies much too mature for them. In fact, Rose is starting to pay attention to the emotional lives of people around her and she notices that things aren’t so great between her parents. Mom’s going through some heavy fertility-related funk and dad is frustrated at his inability to comfort her.
Boy howdy, did I love reading this one. The art is gorgeous — done in all blue. But, what I loved so much about this book and what is captured so beautifully in the art and in the story is that 18ish-month difference in the ages of Rose and Windy. Both girls are on the precipice of adolescence, but Rose is a little closer and you can see it in her self-consciousness, in her interest in the boy at the store, and in her concern for people around her and how their emotions impact her life.
Windy, however, is still joyfully childish — unconcerned about what people will think of her or what they are feeling. Windy is still of that age where everything she likes is the best thing ever regardless of what others think.
I cannot think of another book that so accurately and wonderfully captures this age.
Reading this one is a lot like those lazy, unending summer days when you’re eleven or twelve. The days blend together, the time stretches out endlessly with a few emotional highs and lows. This one is just glorious. So languid and beautiful.