This One Summer

9781554981526

This One Summer

written by Mariko Tamaki

illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

Age: 13+

Interests: graphic novels, adolescence, friendship, family, summer vacation, depression, sex, teenage behaviour, sexism, feminism

Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press: 2014

318 pages

This graphic novel presents a pitch-perfect vision of adolescent life at a summer cottage. Rose and Windy hang out together every summer at the lake, they’ve been doing so for years, but his summer things are a little different. They have just reached the uneasy threshold of adulthood, closely observing (and judging) their parents and guardians, but also drawn to spy on the exciting world of the local partying teenagers. Of course, being pitch-perfect means that the language and situations in this book are a little mature. Yes, there are F-bombs and other expletives, and yes, they talk about (and listen in on conversations about) sex but nothing graphic is shown. There is also talk about Rose’s mom’s miscarriage and depression, and one of the teenagers attempts suicide. Rose and Windy encounter some of the more troublesome attitudes toward women – particularly in overheard conversations between teenage boys but also from the men in their lives – and it’s interesting to see how they process these things. Their friendship falters for a short time when Rose refers to the teen girls as ‘sluts’, and Windy charges her with sexism. (In a totally realistic way, they find their way back to being friends without really addressing the issue or settling it.) Adolescents are deeply immersed in these kinds of moral decisions and struggle to understand one another (and their parents), ricocheting rapidly from empathy to resentment and back again. With moments of blissful childishness thrown into the mix. Ah, adolescence!

In conclusion… A controversial title for many middle school libraries. This book deals with sexual content, but all in conversation, nothing graphic is shown. Language is extremely salty (thank you, teenage boys). There is a lot of disagreement over what the appropriate age is for this book, so pre-reading it would be a good idea before handing it over to your own kid. I think this would be an extremely valuable read for adults, especially parents or teachers struggling to understand the inner life of 12 to 13 year-olds.

UPDATE: My twelve-year-old read this last night. I asked her if she thought it was appropriate for kids her age and she said “Yes, but not for their parents.”

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.