Sunday, June 22, 2014

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

Rose and her parents have been going to Awago Beach since Rose was five.  Rose loves it there, and loves seeing her summer friend, Windy.  This summer, however, things are not the same.  Rose's mother is acting odd, and her parent's keep fighting.  Rose and Windy find themselves witnessing the drama of the local teenagers and taking sides.  Everything seems the same but different.

Beautiful coming of age story.  There's so much that's left unsaid, that doesn't need to be said because of the power of the illustrations.

I don't think it's ever explicitly said how old Rose is.  My guess is 12, maybe?  She's in that in-between stage.  She isn't a teenager, not in high school yet.  She's too old to think of herself as a kid anymore.  She's getting crushes on boys, thinking about getting breasts and her period.  Her best summer friend, Windy, is about a year younger than she is.

It's unclear for most of the story what's going on with Rose's mother.  Is she sick?  She does appear to be very thin and drawn.  She portrayed coughing a few times.  But we come to understand that Rose doesn't know what's going on with her mother either.  Just that she very withdrawn, often short-tempered, doesn't seem to have to patience for things they've always done.

Rose is close with her father.  He laughs and jokes and teases her.  She feels abandoned when he leaves to go back to the city in the middle of their summer.  Now Rose feels she's completely on her own, trapped with her mother who isn't acting like her mother.

Windy's relationship with her mother is a sharp contrast to how Rose feels about her own mother.  Windy's mother seems open and passionate and outwardly shows her love for her child.  All the things Rose feels like are missing right now.  Although it's never said, Rose also feels some resentment toward her mother for wanting to have another child.  Why doesn't her mother feel like she is enough, like Windy's does?

Rose finds herself witness to the drama of the older teenagers of Awago Beach.  Rose has a crush on Doug, who works at the town store.  His girlfriend, Jenny, gets pregnant.  Doug won't talk to Jenny or call her.  Rose immediately falls into defending Doug in her head.  What if Jenny's lying?  What if it's not Doug's?  What if Jenny is cheating on him?  That Jenny is a slut.  Rose has no base for any of this thinking, really.  She has none of that "girls should stick together" mentality.  She just wants the boy she likes to be a nice, good guy.

There's a theme of children and childbirth.  Wanting babies, not wanting babies.  Being too old to have one, being too young to have one.  It gave the story a life-cycle feel.  Beginnings and endings.  Summer beginning, summer ending.  Growing up, getting older.

The art if just beautiful.  It's black and white, but the blacks have shades of blue and gray.  The quietness and peace of the summer that Rose so loves is reflected.  Through uses of close-ups and wordless panels, we get a clear understanding what the characters are thinking and feeling.

Quiet, beautiful, powerful story.  Highly recommended.  

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