Thursday, May 1, 2014

Day 1: This One Summer

Day 1. This year's event is kicking off with a review!

Title: This One Summer
Author: Mariko Tamaki
Illustrator: Jillian Tamaki
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: First Second Books (Macmillan imprint)

Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It's their getaway, their refuge. Rosie's friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose's mom and dad won't stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It's a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it's a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.

This One Summer is a moment in time, one summer in the lives of Rose and Windy where some harsh truths about the world intrude and change things. People come and go, lessons are learned, and the girls grow older during a summer that isn't like the others.

Rose is a quiet, watchful girl. It was clear to see the moments when she grows up, when she comes face to face with life and how much pain it causes. Like the growing distance between her parents. Her father's playful nature, his acting as if everything is normal, is at odds with her mother's harsh lines and sharp tone, her inability to connect with her spouse or daughter caused by a secret she keeps. And the teenagers in town, mysterious and oddly appealing. Is that what being older is like?

Windy is sort of seen through Rose's eyes, a free spirit kind of girl a year younger. She's playful and loud, curious about the adult world like Rose but also not quite ready to grow up. Everything is fun to her, but only when she's happy. She doesn't join in on watching or listening to a conversation when she's uncomfortable or not interested.

I feel that this is a rather authentic look at the personalities of young girls, how they view themselves and the world around them right before they hit those teenage years filled with angst and hormones. They're childish at times, watching scary movies in secret and eating candy, but they're slowly growing up. The world is slowly creeping into their space.

The artwork is wonderful, realistic and at times whimsical. Each character has a distinctive expression, no one looking too similar, their personalities coming through in the ways they moved and looked. The moments of transition were my favourite, when the pages were filled with the nature around them. The milkweed pods and seeds, the sand on the beach, the darkness of the ocean.

I found this to be an enchanting coming of age tale of two young girls, their summer encounter with the harsh wake-ups and realities of adult life. A must-read for graphic novel fans and those with feelings of nostalgia towards summers at the beach.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from First Second through NetGalley.)

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