Graphic Novel Review | This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

We’re almost halfway through July and if you haven’t read This One Summer by cousins Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, I would highly recommend it. I think it’s going to be the graphic novel of the summer (and not just because it has the word “summer” in the title). Continuing their partnership after the success of Skim, their first graphic novel together, the Tamaki cousins have created a poignant and beautiful story about a young girl’s summer at her family’s cottage.

For as far as she can remember, Rose and her family have been going to their family cottage in Awago Beach. Her days there are filled with summery activities with her cottage friend Windy. This year though, things are slightly different: Rose’s mother seems more distant; she can’t seem to relax and her parents keep having small fights. At the same time, the teenagers that hang around the convenience store seem to be getting in their own kind of trouble. Will the cottage ever be peaceful again?

This book reads like a dreamy haze, like you’re reading and watching a snapshot of someone’s life. It makes you feel detached and involved at the same time. It reminded me of that one episode of HBO’s Girls in season 2 (“One Man’s Trash“) where Hannah spends a few nights at a stranger’s house, living his life for a while only to return to her real life afterwards as if it never happened. I could imagine Rose thinking back to that one summer and feeling the same way we do as we read the novel.

The artwork in this book is stunning. It’s so detailed and realistically drawn while keeping with the dream-like atmosphere. The book is printed with various shades of purple which I found was a good, unique choice. Jillian Tamaki does a great job illustrating This One Summer with innovative panels and she uses the space to her full advantage. Honestly, you can get lost in the art alone. (I sure did – every page was as breathtaking as the last.)

This One Summer sample page Mariko Tamaki Jillian Tamaki

Rose sits at the table while Windy waltzes around the room.

Of course, a graphic novel wouldn’t be a graphic novel without the writing. I love how the story juxtaposes idyllic summer cottage life with intense personal and family issues. Mariko Tamaki’s writing is short and sweet but I think it captures the thoughts of a young/teenage girl really well. Everything is written realistically and you can easily sympathize with the characters (except for certain teenagers…) I’ve read critiques that say “nothing happens” in the book but, because I read it as a glimpse into someone’s life, I found that comment to be unnecessarily harsh; we don’t see some of the conflicts resolved because the conflicts haven’t fully resolved themselves yet. After the summer the characters will still be figuring out their lives and moving on from the events that occurred. Personally, I found the story to be engaging enough for me to want to keep reading, especially when paired with Jillian’s breathtaking art. Plus, I do think that everything was explained quite well by the end of the novel and it made total sense to me. So do yourself a favour: pick up this book this summer. You will not regret it.

Verdict: Might not be everyone’s cup of tea (as indicated by the critique above) but definitely mine. It is poignantly written and structured with astounding artwork. I’ve already started my re-read and I will say, without a doubt, that this novel gets better with every read (the details revealed by the end will alter the way you read the novel the second time). I will definitely be reading this again and again.

Read if: You’re looking for a quick but beautiful read for the summer (or during the year when you want to feel like it’s summer), you like graphic novels, like novels that are realistic and probing.

Have you read This One Summer and/or Skim? Do you read graphic novels? What’s your favourite summer memory?

17 thoughts on “Graphic Novel Review | This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

  1. alenaslife says:

    I’ve tried a few graphic novels, but it’s a genre I just can’t connect with. I think it accesses an underdeveloped part of my brain and I get too easily distracted by the illustrations. Glad you liked it though.

    • kmn04books says:

      I was totally thinking about that the other day – how graphic novels kind of involve a kind of literacy that is different from how we read novels! I find them stressful to read sometimes because instead of analyzing one thing I have to analyze two! But This One Summer was a relaxing experience for me (maybe because the writing was so sparse?) so I would definitely recommend it for anyone who wants to start reading graphic novels but are nervous about it!

  2. Naomi says:

    The only graphic novels I’ve read are the ones I have read with my kids. This sounds like an excellent first graphic novel just for me! You described it really well in your review!

    • kmn04books says:

      Thanks, Naomi! I would definitely recommend This One Summer as a “starter” graphic novel. The mix of writing and illustrations is perfect so you don’t feel overwhelmed!

  3. Amy Sachs says:

    I’ve only read one graphic novel, and it was the Marvel Civil War book, which I liked but I think I would prefer something more like this. I’ll have to check it out next time I’m at a book or comic book store !

    • kmn04books says:

      I’m not too well-read in graphic novels either but this was a really easy, effortless read (which I like as sometimes graphic novels are so busy that it stresses me out). I hope you check it out and I can’t wait to hear what you think about it!

  4. tanya (52 books or bust) says:

    I;m going to be talking about this book and Skim on the WriteReads podcast in August. I’m glad it’s good. Graphic novels aren’t really my thing (too visual and not enough words) but I’ve heard these two talk on CBC a number of times and I think I’m hooked.

    • kmn04books says:

      Ooh, I’ve actually never heard them talking/explaining the book before. I wanted to meet Mariko at the Toronto Comics Festival but somehow I missed her! Not all graphic novels are my thing but I definitely enjoyed this one. Can’t wait to listen to the podcast!

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