With summer ending (for many of us), we review the breakout YA seasonal graphic novel of 2014, This One Summer.

General Information

Title: This One Summer
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artist: Jillian Tamaki
ISBN: 9781554981526, 9781554987061, 159643774X
First Published: 2014

Available from Amazon.ca, Amazon.uk, Amazon.com.

Premise:

Rose and Windy are summer friends, who see each other every year at Awago Beach. Rose is twelve or thirteen; Windy is a year and a half younger, and their friendship faces strains.

Rose’s parents are drifting apart for reasons we only gradually learn. Rose, meanwhile, finds herself drawn to an older boy with a pregnant girlfriend.

As a bonus, the story features significant intertextuality with nearly every major Teen Horror Film of the last thirty years.

High Points

“You remember that time your mom made up that ghost story about the woman who carried her heart around in her purse?”

Japanese manga has influenced Jillian Tamaki’s artwork, but she has developed her own style and creates a beautifully-realized Canadian hinterland. The characters feel real—spectacularly ordinary and not always likeable. This One Summer moves elegantly from fine detail to detailed splash panel, and several illustrations capture and carry the emotional weight of the moment: Rose and Windy separated in the night, Rose running home in imagined fright. We find on these pages visual haiku.

Low Point

Less a Low Point than a Troublesome Aspect: the story has enough depth and content issues to appeal to older readers, and enough relevance for the younger ones. It feels strangely in-between (appropriate, I suppose, for the protagonist) and may lose as many of readers from these audiences as it draws, for precisely these reasons.

The Scores

Originality: 3/6 Coming of age during that memorable summer when everything changed? When you began to learn dark truths about the adult world? Remember that? So does everyone else. The Tamakis have created a memorable graphic novel with its own approach, but it’s not particularly original.

Artwork: 6/6 See “High Points.”

Story: 4/6 The plot initially seems episodic, but the greater arcs gradually reveal themselves. We see things as they affect the protagonist; mostly, the drama happens to people around her. Some readers will find the climax a bit forced, but it is not unbelievable, and it brings together two major plotlines.

Characterization: 6/6 Rose is terrifically real, at turns sympathetic and appalling. Windy can be childish and (for Rose) embarrassing, and she treats sugar like an addict does crack. She proves more understanding of the pregnant girl’s situation, however. This One Summer features perhaps the most realistic depiction of friendship and coming-of-age in a graphic novel since Ghost World.

Emotional response: 5/6

Flow 5/6

Overall: 6/6 This graphic novel aims at the YA audience and has obvious appeal for girls. Nevertheless, everyone who approaches it with an open mind will find a worthwhile read.

In total, This One Summer receives 35/42