This One Summer: Graphic Novel review

Main image: © Jillian Tamaki, used with permission.

This also happens to be my favourite piece of artwork from This One Summer (Jillian and Mariko Tamaki). 

This One Summer is a collaboration between cousins Mario Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, it follows the story of Rose, someone who is starting to nosedive into the world of puberty. The story takes place across the summer of her annual trip with her family to Awago Beach, where her friend Windy is always there to meet her. While previous summers have always been amazing; this summer Rose has to confront family problems, as well as the pains of growing up. 

If you want something that captures the feelings of summer holidays; this is it. For someone like me who has now decided that they are ancient and is missing the carefree  leisure of summer holidays; this book is equally a delight and a weird kind of torture.

The whole read perfectly captures the dreamy wistfulness that captured my summer holidays – the same could be said for the content of the graphic novel. Not a lot happens but a lot happens at the same time. Growing up isn’t always something that is a dramatic adventure and this is the real genius of the graphic novel – it captures exactly that.

The artwork as well is beautiful- if I could frame the front cover I would. I just love when soft colours, especially lilacs and a watercolour feel is applied to artwork- and I love, love, love how that theme contains on through the graphic novel.

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Image: © Jillian Tamaki, used with permission.

However, it wasn’t the stunning artwork that initially drew me to this graphic novel; it was that I was talking to the lovely shop assistant in my local comic book and they recommended the graphic novel based on my other choices. When talking about the graphic novel they also discussed how it was difficult to order in because it had been banned in the US. The reason it was banned I discovered was due to that it was deemed to contain ‘vulgar language’. And to be honest if a book is banned I automatically want to read it more. All I say about the ‘vulgar’ language is this: this is a book aimed at teens who are going to use and hear this language – that is just the reality of life.

And capturing the reality of life is what the graphic novel does best, especially the brutal reality of being introduced to the world of growing up and adulthood. However, along that pain is the joy of friendships. I have to say Rose and Windy’s friendship was probably my favourite thing throughout This One Summer because it has been a long time since I have read a friendship that didn’t feel stylised but just captured the messy reality of friendship. Sometimes, like Rose does to Windy, you mess up when talking with you friends. But most of the time being with a friend feels freeing –  something which Windy does beautifully.

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Image: © Jillian Tamaki, used with permission.

I’m not going to lie, I see a lot of myself in Windy but I also see a lot more power in Windy than I felt I had at that age. She says what she thinks is right, even when it can be hard, especially when you friend is older (as is the case for Windy).

I hope by keeping this review short and sweet I capture the spirit of the graphic novel a bit – in that the graphic novel didn’t need to say a lot to be impactful. The artwork and storytelling fills in the gaps for you. The graphic novel’s strength is also its only weakness – not a lot happens but the characterisation is some of the best I’ve seen. We have a central character who the author is not afraid to show mess up in her journey to grow up as well as highlight how her infatuation with the teenage lothario of Awago Beach, Dunc sways and influences her judgment.

The adults too are not one-dimensional – we get to see Rose’s mum, Alice’s pain and understand her actions, as well as understand why Rose would react the way she does to her mum’s behaviour. Essentially This One Summer is a snapshot of the reality of growing up, but it’s genius is the way it paints that snapshot – bright, vivid and deeply immersive.

If you’re interested in This One Summer you can buy it on Amazon, I’d also recommend this review in The Comics Journal, which inspired some of the points in my review, particularly the line: ‘Immersion is This One Summer‘s strength’. However, it’s important to note that the review is not spoiler free.

April (April is the Cruellest Month)

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Anti Bullying Week: My experiences and what I’ve learnt

It’s anti bullying this week so I thought it’d be an apt time to jump on the bandwagon as it were and discuss my experiences with bullying. I’ve been bullied on several different occasions and at times although I didn’t fully realise at the time I have engaged in bullying behaviour. I think a lot of the times this is something we are scared to admit about ourselves so instead will only talk about the real, horrible cases of bullying, rather than the day to day routine behaviour we saw (or even participated in) that we didn’t realise could have lasting effects as well.

Dodie’s bravery in talking about bullying in her latest book (my review for which can be found here), and how she had engaged in it too because she was afraid, and it was easier, helped to inspire me to speak up about this. The reason she gave of being afraid the conversation would turn to herself instead is really my reason as well. From what I can remember from my hazy memories, my bullying behaviour was joining in with nicknames and not thinking about the consequences. Behaviours I thought was teasing but added to the persona of a person, and didn’t let them define themselves on their own terms. If the people I did this to (I don’t think the list is long but it’s probably longer than I’d like to think) are reading this I’m sorry I went along with the crowd. Sure, I might have not been the loud voice egging people on, but that doesn’t mean I am not guilty. At the time I didn’t even realise but looking back now I know this behaviour matters.

I know how bullying makes you feel. Even the little comments can feel like a heart attack to your nerves. Usually when I’ve been bullied they picked up the easy part to latch on to, which is that I was chubbier than the other children in the age group. Or when I was a teenager and not the weight I was made to feel but because I never had the part where I could eat and nothing be there (not that there is anything wrong with that). I was made to feel like my body could never fit in. It was easy for them to latch on to my body because society told them everywhere it was not desirable. It was easy to latch on to because I knew this, and was insecure about it. I also wouldn’t fight back.

Now I’d like to think I wouldn’t let it not touch me but I’m not impenetrable. It still would. Then, they probably didn’t realise that their tiny comment was all I thought about every minute of the day. What it would be like when I was smaller. When was food, what I should eat (or not eat) to achieve this.

This is still not something I think will ever escape me, but it has dropped down my priority levels now so that my day is more than that. I’ve never made negative comments about people’s weight or appearance or tried to belittle them in that way, but the little bits of behaviour I was complicit in could have effected someone in the same way.

My message from this then is that you may think because you’re not a bully (or the stereotypical definition of one) that you’re behaviour is in fact not bullying type behaviour. Before, you dismiss something as teasing let yourself really think about whether they are in on the joke or not.

I forgave my bullies/ antagonists a long time ago. They just weren’t worth the effort. I think in the end they realised they had been as wrong about me as I’d been about them. Everyone just never bothered to get to know anyone, and just stuck to their labels.

Maybe it’s about time we throw those labels and preconceptions away. It’s hard and you have to be strong to resist the crowd (and when you’re going through your own insecurities that is damn near impossible). I used to get so wound up about the people who didn’t like me for seemingly no particular reason and wondered what was fundamentally wrong with me to make that so. Now, I know sometimes people just don’t click (though they didn’t need to ignore me though or make it obvious though- just saying) and you’ll never please everyone.

I don’t know what I would have done growing up if social media defined my life and my experiences as much as it does this generation growing up now (perfect Instagram photographs at every corner would have definitely sent me into a talespin) so anyone growing up with that as my upmost respect. Especially as words online cut as deep as any that come out of people’s mouths.

This anti-bullying week join me in reflecting over your past behaviour, and seeing how you can be better moving forward. Be the second thought that comes into your head, not the judgemental first one that you didn’t even consciously decide.