This One Summer follows the story of two girls on their seaside vacation in the town of Awago as the two end their lives as children and start becoming adults. Written by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, the book has a strong feminine presence and a definite slant towards the issues of the modern young woman.
Rose is the elder of the two characters visiting Awago. Her parents are frustrated not with her, but with each other. It is obvious that something is not right between them, but the two struggle to behave like nothing is wrong in front of Rose. Like any child that has ever been in the midst of that sort of emotional turmoil, Rose is well aware of what is happening. Windy is a girl, just slightly younger than Rose. The two have grown up together, and thus have a strong bond. Windy’s mother is a free spirit, participating in drum circles, moon worship, and is rarely home. For the most part, Windy stays with her grandmother, and she and Rose have sleepovers in Windy’s home. The two spend the summer together, watching horror movies and visiting the corner store. In the background, the youth of Awago deal with the issues of teen pregnancy, the sexuality of the teenage female and the emphasis of the word “slut.” Though Windy and Rose see these situations first hand, it is clear they do not necessarily understand the connotations. The two grow apart and change as the summer continues, their families experiencing major changes.
Mariko and Jillian’s realism of the characters are striking. While Rose’s parents love visiting Awago, they are judgmental towards the youth of the town and use their strayed perspective to use whatever comes their way as proof the teenagers there are going no where and worthy of disapproval. The labeling of a local girl as a “slut” seems to graze Rose and Windy, who don’t understand the true meaning of the terms and begin to play with it. They discuss their bodies, their experiences, at an age where they still have not yet had too many interactions with teenage males or adults other than their parents. Rose’s apparent crush on the neighborhood shop clerk is the typical crush on an older boy. Her need to defend him, even as he is in the wrong, seems so familiar it triggers memories of the past.
The artwork is done in a blue ink, the images layered with dark lines and fills in just one color. The blue tint gives a feeling of longing and sense of nostalgia to the book that solid black and white work just cannot. Each character can be drawn simply, or in a complex series of blue lines and complicated shading. Grass is as richly detailed as the family car. Buildings are drawn in great detail. That One Summer is visually stunning, following a style that is so rare to see in the age of computer-aided coloration.
That One Summer is not a graphic novel for kids. While the book highly emphasises the struggles of teenagers, it is definitely a book for the more serious older reader. This is not a superhero story. This is not a book designed for happy endings. This One Summer forces the reader to think about the words they use and their influence on the generation that is following closely behind.
That One Summer is now available from First Second Books.