This One Summer

Thinking back, I never really had a memorable summer.  A defining summer.  A time period in which the course of my life irrevocably changed for better or for worse.  I never went to camp (I have serious introvert issues about being with a lot of people at once and HAVING FUN BECAUSE I SAID SO), I never had boy drama, and I never, you know, saw someone commit a crime or something like that.  Past summers merely remind me of the horrible misery of Wisconsin winters.

Yet, the summer as catalyst for change is a theme we find in film, song, and print.  If we want to get all metaphorical and stuff, it's kind of an interesting choice.  I mean, usually we have spring=rebirth, autumn=fading or dying OR a fresh start (school year, right?), winter=death, sleep, darkness.  Summer ... hmm.  Summer is ... hot.  It can be scorching, stripping you clean of what you used to be or who you used to be.  It's a time of freedom, generally, as kids are off of school and they aren't constrained by schedules and homework.  Especially in middle and high school, you start to think that summer is a time of reinvention.  You'll go back to school in the fall a different person.  A better person.  A cooler, prettier, hotter person.  Or whatever your dream is.  No one's there to scrutinize you over the summer.

Summertime is vacation time, too.  Transplantation into another environment enables you to meet new people, forge new bonds, and attempt to save old ones.  There's the summer fling.  You can become someone other than who you normally are--or maybe, just pretend to be someone else.  No one knows.  You're in a new place.  You can reinvent yourself as whomever you would like to be.

But I've never done that.  I've never had some sort of magical summer metamorphosis, nor did I particularly aim for one.  Perhaps my ignorance impeded my ability to fully appreciate This One Summer, by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki (Mariko writes; Jillian does the artwork).  However, the more I think about it, the more I realize that I did, in fact, enjoy this graphic novel very much.
this one summer
This One Summer is a (deceptively?) simple story of Rose and her summer at Awago Beach.  Her family's been going there forever, and she always meets her friend Windy when they get to Awago. Rose and Windy are very different, and their families are different, but even if they disagree, they're flexible enough to still be friends.  I quite liked Windy, actually.  She has these scribbly, thick, dark eyebrows like mine.  Actually, Windy is a giant bundle of energy, bouncing around, singing, swimming, and dancing.  Rose is more reserved and I didn't connect well with her.  Maybe that's the point, though.  Rose's whole family has issues with secrets and holding in pain when it should be let out.

Rose and Windy decide to watch scary movies (think Texas Chainsaw Massacre) over the summer in an unspoken attempt to be grown up.  Their regular trips to the town store for candy and over-the-top horror films give them glimpses into the real-life drama of Awago's older teens.  We see the events from Rose and Windy's perspective, which is pretty sheltered, but as older readers, we can see the whole picture.  It's quite a clever narrative, actually.

For me, though, the real standout in this volume is Jillian Tamaki's artwork.  It's ... stunning.  Done in inky ocean blues, the characters all look like real people.  They're not glossy superheroes.  They look like people you could and do meet every day.  Plus, there are these absolutely gorgeous two-page spreads, generally of the ocean or the beach near Awago, that just stunned me with their depth.

This is a graphic novel that you have to digest.  At least, I did.  I didn't particularly like it right away, but after meditating on what it said and what it didn't say, I think I understand what the authors were going for.  It's a summer where normality became disrupted.  And I'm kind of jealous, because I never really had that.

Actually, maybe, now I do.  I believe that reading gives you life experiences you might never have a chance to experience in the flesh.  So now, I've had my one summer.

Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher, :01, in exchange for an honest review.


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