REVIEW of Tamaki, Jillian, and Mariko Tamaki. This One Summer. First Second [Roaring Book Press], 2014. 319p. $17.99 Paperback. 978-1-59643-774-6.
[VOYA codes:] 3Q 4P [female readers] 3P [male readers] J S
Rose cannot remember a summer when she and her parents did not go to the cottage at Awago Beach. This year, Rose and her Awago-Beach friend, Windy, spend bright and familiar times at the beach and the cottages, at Brewster’s Store, and at the s’mores bonfire. They like swimming, scaring themselves with horror films, drinking virgin daiquiris with Windy’s Grandma, and frolicking in fun about their budding breasts.
A large, illustrated frame discloses that slightly younger Windy is still mostly focused on the cheery flashlight lens of childhood; Rose pensively looks out into the darkness that surrounds them in the night. The dark things that Rose faces this summer include her mother’s miscarriage and deep sadness, her parents’ painful arguments, her aching for a summer crush, and discoveries about the stark realities that can accompany backwoods boys, insensitive relatives, and teen pregnancy.
This frank and bittersweet graphic novel is filled with strong contrasts in light-filled and dark illustrations, and it carefully brings the story of Rose’s chiaroscuro summer alive with great success. Small type sizes draw in the reader to linger on the story’s profundities. Sparse text and conversation are engaging, and a variety of frame sizes supports constant interest in the story. Unless readers stop to explore the detailed illustrations, however, they might miss out on certain story features and character-driven descriptions. Despite this minor issue, This One Summer will speak to teens of various ages. It is highly recommended for those in grades 7 through 9, and older teens – especially female readers – will find themselves thinking about the story again and again. Some teens may want to read it twice in order to take a deeper look at experiences, emotions, thoughts, and all the possibilities that can be found in just one summer.