Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

Kim, nicknamed Skim (because she isn't) is having a rough year at school.  Skim is a bit of a loner.  She doesn't really hang out with anyone but her friend Lisa, who hasn't been much of friend lately.  A girl at school, Katie Matthews, is dumped by her boyfriend, who then kills himself.  There are rumors he was gay.  Skim's school makes mourning their main occupation, with a group of popular girls creating Girls Celebrate Life!  A club that's supposed to prevent suicide.  But the popular girls are still as much bullies and ostracizing as ever, no matter what they say.

While all this is going on around her, Skim falls in love with her English teacher.  Love does not make her happy though.  In fact, Skim becomes more depressed as she fights her way through her confusion with no one to help her.

This graphic novel is done in black and white, with realistic ink drawings, which nicely reflect the tone of the book.  There are no straight panels.  Some pictures are full pages; others have panels one on top of the other.  It's not hard to follow the flow of text however.

This was very well done.  Many different things were happening.  On the surface, you have Skim who's an outcast and only has one friend, Lisa, who really isn't very nice or supportive of her.  I wanted Skim to dump her and find someone nicer.  We also have Skim falling in love with her English teacher, Ms. Archer.  We learn that Skim and Ms. Archer kiss, and that Skim visits Ms. Archer at her house.  So Skim is coming to terms with the fact she's a lesbian, and she confused about that and confused about her teacher and there's no one to talk to about it.  Then Ms. Archer leaves, and Skim is even more depressed.

This is all paralleled by what's happening at school.  Katie's boyfriend kills himself, supposedly because he was gay.  Everyone is sad and mourning, but it's all a front really.  No  one is actually trying to reach out to anyone who might really be depressed or need help.  Skim is not popular, and even though she does need support and help none of the popular girls are interested in reaching out to her.  We see Katie always surrounded by her friends who are constantly trying to cheer her up, but Katie seems to be becoming more and more depressed herself.

 I was glad that Katie and Skim found each other.  I was glad it didn't end with anyone else taking their lives, but the two of them starting to hang out because their respective friends kind of suck and they discover they have a lot of fun together.  They don't explicitly talk to each other about the more serious events in their live, but being friends with each other seems to help them both.

Definitely recommended.  Great graphic novel for girls.

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