Why I read This One Summer
I actually don’t like a lot of graphic novels that are written for teenagers. The ones that seem to be the most popular are just way too “goody two shoes” for me. I suppose they must serve a purpose as far as making kids feel ok about the changes they go through…or some issues such as bullying, identity, etc….but I don’t like any story that is too obvious. I definitely don’t think they work for adults.
Well, they don’t work for this adult, and this is The Lois Level. ‘Nuff said.
So I had run across This One Summer before, but the story, that apparently has something to do with “a special summer” in the lives of two girls kind of made me roll my eyes.
Then a couple of weeks ago I was looking over my copy of 1000 Books To Read Before You Die, and I ran across this book. It surprised me to see this book in a collection like that…author James Mustich doesn’t have that many Young Adult books in his collection, so this was a surprise.
About that time, my local library decided to reopen for curbside pick up post COVID 19 shutdowns, and they had this book, so I decided to give it a go.
Why You Should Read This One Summer
The nice thing about graphic novels is that they are such quick reads that you can afford, time wise, to explore them a little bit, and complete reads outside of your normal “zone” without investing too much time. For this reason, as far as I’m concerned, the graphic format really benefits the plot of This One Summer.
An important part of a summer story, to me, to convey the sense of timelessness one gets from days that feel long and without a lot of obligations. There is especially a rhythm when one goes to a vacation spot or camp that is a tradition…there’s kind of a sense of coming home, even if you aren’t an owner.
With a graphic, you can read this through the illustrations as the dialogue tells the story.
So in a sense, “this one summer” is memorable for the ways it is different from the others, but also for the ways it is the same.
Rose, the protagonist, has been going to one camp with her family every summer as long as she can remember. They stay in the same cabin, and she has an established “summer friend”, Windy, another only child, with whom she hangs out.
As far as this basic structure is concerned, nothing happens. I wondered if something was going to happen to at least one of the girls, but nothing much did.
What you do start to see is their age difference, where Rose is starting to move into the world of teenagers, and young adults, who have to confront more adult problems. At the same time, Rose’s mother is struggling with a related problem, but from a different point of view.
So that’s what’s really significant about “this one summer”. It’s kind of a story where everything is the same and at the same time, things start to be different.
I didn’t mind this story as I was reading it…I enjoyed myself…but for most of the book I was wondering if this book really is interesting to adults, but in the end, I think it is.
A teenager reading this book is going to identify with Rose, most likely, or perhaps Windy. An adult reading this book is probably going to remember what is like to be a Rose or a Windy, but also identify with the struggles of the parents.
When we are parents and have our own personal struggles, it’s a big added wrinkle when we have kids, and we wonder how the times that we aren’t there for our kids emotionally affect them. So whether you identify with the parents’ issue, which has to do with the mom’s fertility, or not, there is probably something you’ve had happen as a parent, or fear happening, that you will see reflected in this story.
The potential for subtlety in the graphic format is what really makes it work on both levels. The authors do not have to explain things that they can draw, if that makes sense.
Tamaki and Tamaki are both Canadians, and the setting of this story, a sort of family summer camp outside Ontario, may not be familiar to Americans, at least in certain parts of the country. It wouldn’t be familiar at all to me except that I have several Canadian friends from time spent living out of the country, and I’ve heard of these sort of resorts mentioned. Anyway, if you are an American or from elsewhere, you will catch on pretty quickly.
Check out this excerpt of This One Summer from PEN.
If you are interested in using this book with teens, this resource page from CBLDF (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund) provides excellent analysis and resources, including links to the Common Core State Standards (U.S.). I would suggest bookmarking the site for assistance with any graphic novels you consider in the future.
Canadian Lake Resorts
These photos are much more vintage than the setting of This One Summer implies (since the girls rent videos), but they give a sense of what they are like.
I’m sure they don’t change that much: the appeal is their timelessness and the sense of enjoying nature, I’m sure.
Jillian and Mariko Tamaki
The Tamakis are cousins. They are both Japanese-Canadian, but Jillian also has an Egyptian-American parent, and Mariko has a Jewish-Canadian parent. They were both born in Canada.
Skim is their award winning debut collaboration. The story is more complicated than This One Summer, but it shares the theme of confusion adolescents feel when they begin to interact with adults as adults…sort of…and of course, get a bit burned.
I’ve read Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me. It wasn’t my favorite, as an adult, but it unpacks the complications of that first romantic relationship with a manipulative person that most of us had have. And hopefully learn to recognize before we repeat.
When it happened to me, I thought, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” and personally determined to never let it happen again.
The romance in the book is a Lesbian one, but the situation is universal, for sure.
From the description, Boundless sounds pretty over the top but interesting. Very experimental, I’m guessing.