Every year Rose and her parents go to a lake house on Awago beach. The summer is normally full of swimming, campfires, and other warm-weather fun with her summertime best friend Windy. However, this year is different. Rose’s parents are fighting, and her mother seems to be sinking into a depression, but secrets swirl around them. Windy and Rose are at the cusp of their teenage years and spend the summer observing the older teens who live in the town. Specifically, they watch “the Dud,” on whom Rose has a crush, and his tempestuous relationship with Jenny. And as the summer goes on, what they see with the couple becomes more serious, taking a very dangerous turn.
This graphic novel from cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki is a fantastic read for young teens, over the summer or at any other time. Mariko’s writing perfectly captures the magic, frustration, and change of the summer between childhood and adolescence. There are a few separate plot lines – Rose’s mother’s depression, the older couple’s troubles, and even Windy and Rose’s changing tastes – enough to keep the story going, but nothing that overshadows another plotline. It is a book about everything that happens in a summer and nothing extremely specific, much like most summers we remember from our childhood.
Jillian is the artistic half of the cousin duo. Her artwork, done in a single tone palette, shades of blues and grays, is beautiful and effective. While the story is set in the present day, a full-color book would have seemed garish for a story this sincere. Instead, the single tones and dramatic full-page spreads give it a serious but not pretentious vibe, perfect for a summer memoir that is more serious than just lazy days at the beach would imply.
While this book has some content issues that might raise a red flag in more conservative communities (discussion of teenage sexuality and unplanned pregnancy, crude language), it will have strong appeal for middle-school girls and would do very well in a school or public library young adult collection. It would also be an excellent choice for a mother-daughter book club (those were a huge library fad a few years ago and I’m sure someone somewhere is still doing them). Readers who enjoy Raina Telgemeier’s Smile or are looking for a more juvenile version of Alison Bechdel will appreciate This One Summer.