This One Summer by cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki is a Governor General’s Literary Award winner in addition to being on several Best Of…lists. I can’t claim any real expertise when it comes to graphic novels, so I don’t really know what the criteria might be for determining what makes a graphic novel superior to others. Like everyone of my generation, I used to be a big fan of Archie and horror comics, but it’s only since I returned to the classroom that I have made it a point to read graphic novels – mostly because I do have students who enjoy them and I want to be sure that I include them in my classroom library.
Rose and her family have been going to Awago Beach every summer since she can remember. Rose says, “My dad says Awago is a place where beer grows on trees and everyone can sleep in until eleven.” It’s magical. It’s also where Windy, Rose’s “summer cottage friend since I was five” lives.
This summer is captured in monochrome as Rose and Windy revisit old haunts and settle back into their summer routine. It’s clear, though, that the one and a half year difference between the girls is impactful this year. Rose, the elder, is contemplative and watchful and often reacts to Windy’s suggestions with a shrug and a “maybe.” At Brewster’s “the only store in all of Awago” the girls buy penny candy, rent horror movies and watch (Windy with girlish disgust and Rose with curious fascination) the overtly sexual relationship between older teens Dunc and Jenny.
This one summer is different in another way. Rose is hyper aware that her parents don’t seem to be getting along all that well and Rose senses the rift is sucking them all in even when her father assures her that “It’s all just adult junk that doesn’t mean anything.” It’s hard to navigate that tricky path from childhood to adulthood without touchstones and Rose is aware, perhaps without quite understanding it, that she is on shaky ground.
This One Summer is a coming of age novel steeped in nostalgia. It will remind adult readers of their “one” summer, that time that now seems captured in a permanently dreamy gauze and it will ring true to young adults for whom that one summer may be this summer.