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This One Summer, by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

Review copy provided by First Second Books.

This is more or less the exact opposite of The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza, as far as graphic novels for young people go, and it’s sort of amusing that the two arrived in one package. This One Summer is a moody coming of age story about a young girl and her family and friends, about the ways that she finds that the people she admires and the people she is mad at sometimes need to switch places for awhile, and that she doesn’t know quite everything she thinks she knows.

Rose and her parents come to the same cabin every year, and she’s friends with a younger girl there, Windy. I think that one of the things I like best about This One Summer is the way that it depicts the tension in Rose and Windy’s friendship, as Rose has gotten a little bit older and more sophisticated than Windy, and yet not quite as much older and more sophisticated as she hopes. Those delicate cusp moments are difficult to get across in a few drawings and lines of dialog, and the Tamakis pull it off perfectly. And Rose and Windy are in turn not quite old enough to be part of the circle of teenagers around the cabins–they’re on the outside looking in, and they don’t understand all of what they’re looking at, and the ways they try to make sense of it all can sometimes be self-serving, and sometimes cruel, but ultimately neither.

The same is true of Rose’s relationship with her parents: she has been dragged into their issues and did not ask to be, and she is not always perfectly understanding of that, as who could expect her to be. She is prickly and frustrated and herself, but ultimately she has a sense of who they are as a family, and who their family is to the world, that shines through.

This is very much a relationship book. The plot is quiet, though the girls are often not. While I frequently complain that there isn’t enough story in graphic novels, there’s as much story here as in many a YA novel with the same number of pages. The expressive faces and body language account for a great deal and carry through mute hurt and joy and much more.

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