By Mariko Tamaki
Art by Jillian Tamaki
Available now from First Second Books (Macmillan)
Cousins Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki brilliantly capture the liminal time between being a teenager and being a child in their new graphic novel, THIS ONE SUMMER. Rose and Windy are friends who hang out every summer when their families visit Awago Beach. They like swimming and buying candy and renting R-rated videos, which they can get away with since the teenage clerk doesn't really care.
They're at the age where they're starting to clue into things like sex jokes, but don't really understand them. Their hormones are starting to go a bit wild, causing both crushes and anger. They're still kids, but their actions are starting to carry deeper consequences.
Although Rose and Windy are young, THIS ONE SUMMER is best enjoyed by a reader who is at least slightly older. The real treat is putting together what Rose and Windy notice into the whole story. Some is gathered through Mariko's script, and other clues are only in Jillian's art, such as Rose's mom's defensive, hunched in body language.
There are some genuinely disturbing moments, of the mundanely disturbing type. A family friend violates Rose's mom's boundaries, and Rose doesn't get it because she just wants her mom to have fun and her mom is refusing to. She doesn't understand her mom's motives and isn't old enough to suss them out. Meanwhile, Rose also shows that she's picked up a real misogynistic streak from the teenage boys hanging around the corner store, which drives a wedge between her and Windy. It's painfully real, that difficultly of growing into being a teenage girl while being taught to hate those other girls who aren't like you.
There's a beautiful, and beautifully complicated thread of family running through THIS ONE SUMMER. Rose and Windy are like sisters. Rose's parents tried for another child, but didn't have one. Windy is adopted. A local teenage girl is pregnant, and only has a few people offering her any support. The relationships are as complicated as enjoying a swim on the beautiful beach is easy, and Rose and Windy are caught between those worlds.
THIS ONE SUMMER is a lovely slice of life novel that perfectly captures the wonders of summer and a transitional time of life.