Sunday, January 17, 2016

Review: This One Summer (Tamaki, Tamaki)

AUTHOR: Mariko Tamaki, Jillian Tamaki
SERIES: none
PUBLISHER: First Second
PUBLICATION DATE: May 6, 2014
ISBN: 9781626720947
PAGES: 320
SOURCE: my library
GENRE: graphic novel; realistic/contemporary
SETTING: Awago Beach, summertime
GIVE IT TO: HS girls
SUMMARY: Summer friends Windy and Rose meet at their family summer homes at Awago Beach. There, they swim, dig holes, watch scary movies, deal with family issues, and spy on a local teen couple.

REVIEW: This One Summer is one of those books that I recommend and checkout freely without any qualms at all...until I read it. After reading it, I think I am going to cringe every time a sweet little sixth grade girl brings it to the circulation desk. The front cover is misleading. While the two main girl characters are younger, maybe 12 or so, they observe lots of adult issues and arguments going on around them. Middle school librarians should know that This One Summer has frequent profanity and mature themes such as teen pregnancy, a troubled marriage, a possible attempted suicide, and Rose's mother's ongoing depression. Because of this, I do not recommend this title for any elementary library and advise caution for middle school libraries.

I'll start with the illustrations, which are pure artistry. Though I didn't really "get" all of the illustrations, they show character emotions perfectly. The girls' facial expressions show more than what they actually say. This is done so well that I think readers would get the gist of the story even without the dialogue and accompanying text. Rose and Windy's expressions, dialogue, and actions make them feel real to the reader. I can't imagine how long it must have taken the Tamakis to create this gorgeous book.

While I loved the illustrations, I was a bit underwhelmed by this quiet, slice-of-life story. There are emotional conflicts, but almost nothing actually happens. The girls swim. They watch horror movies. They have some minor arguments that don't last very long. The two main conflicts--Rose's mother's ongoing depression and a teen couple's pregnancy--are well-done but unremarkable. As in real life, nothing is really resolved in the end. The summer ends and Rose goes home.

Even though the story was a bit quiet for my taste, I am giving it a 4-star rating. The illustrations are obviously 5-star material. The story, while a bit slow-paced, is interesting enough that I would be interested in a sequel about the next summer for these girls, their parents, and the Awago Beach teen couple.

THE BOTTOM LINE: I love the illustrations, found the story underwhelming, and am sad that the profanity limits this to the older end of middle school. High school English or sociology teachers will find lots of material for character studies here.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We have two copies.

READALIKES: Sunny Side Up (Holm/Holm); Supermutant Magic Academy (Tamaki)

RATING BREAKDOWN:
  • Overall: 4/5
  • Creativity: 5/5
  • Characters: 5/5
  • Engrossing: 3/5
  • Writing: 4/5
  • Appeal to teens: 4/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5

CONTENT:
  • Language: extreme; lots of F-bombs, sh**, slut, bitch, "boobies"
  • Sexuality: medium; teen pregnancy, kissing, innuendo, one boy wears offensive (but funny!) t-shirts, references to lesbians
  • Violence: none
  • Drugs/Alcohol: medium; teens smoke, drink alcohol
  • Other: SPOILER--highlight to see--> Rose's mother is depressed after a miscarriage two years ago.

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