Friends come of age in ‘This One Summer’

Summertime: so close, yet presently so far away in the minds of countless adolescents finishing up those last few months of the school year. 

At a young age, some of the more precious memories of vacation time are spent with families and friends during the season of freedom, where many experience “This One Summer” of utmost significance.

Cousins Jillian and Mariko Tamaki beautifully articulate the lives of two youthful girls going through a meaningful stage of growth in “This One Summer,” a 320-page graphic novel. Published by First Second Books, this fictional tale is set for release on May 6.

Rose is ready to enjoy a traditional family getaway at Awago Beach, a place where she can escape to a lake house each summer with her mom and dad. 

After reuniting with her friend Windy, the should-be siblings converse about their interests in older boys, horror movies and the idea of one day having bigger boobs.

In the midst of all the fun, however, is what makes this year’s remembrance the most distinct for them—or at least Rose. Her parents begin to display signs of detachment from each other, leaving Rose and Windy to look for ways around the tension. This instead invites an entire new stack of complications, when they eavesdrop on the issues of a native teenager.

The story reads as a page-turner, with dialogue so well-versed and capturing of the very essence of how youngsters speak to one another. It feels ultimately alive and refreshing to the current dialect of the times. Another plus is the treatment of conflicts within the characters; yet when it’s at its roughest moments, there’s a craving for even more exposure.

Illustrations from Jillian Tamaki are perhaps the most fantastic component to this tale. With the use of pantone color on the printed insides, readers will notice an alluring dark blue contrast instead of standard color or black and white. 

In complementation to the writing, the artwork is wonderfully detailed and full of a sense of style unique to its creator.

While the age range is between 12 to 18 years, Mariko Tamaki’s direction of place and character development creates a relatable visual setting for many to enjoy, far beyond the reach of the targeted demographic audience. The tendency for some varying uses of explicit language is what would align this piece of fiction to at least the preteen maturity.

Residing in Brooklyn, Jillian Tamaki is an illustrator and cartoonist who grew up in Calgary, Alberta and graduated in 2003 from the Alberta College of Art and Design, currently teaching in the illustration department of the School of Visual Arts. She previously worked with her cousin in “Skim,” a 2008 graphic novel about a girl seen as an outsider.

“Doing ‘Skim’ taught me pretty much everything I know about doing comics,” said Jillian Tamaki in an interview with the Los Angeles Times’ Hero Complex team. “While I am proud of that book, I wanted to refine and expand on some of the ideas we explored — namely creating a specific sense of place and time.”

Mariko Tamaki graduated at McGill University in 1994, where she studied English literature. She has worked as a writer and performance artist in Toronto, Ontario. In the interview with Hero Complex, they asked what kept drawing her to characters on the cusp of adulthood.

“I think part of it is that the experience of being that age still feels very close to me, maybe because it was something I really wrestled through,” said Mariko Tamaki in the same interview. “So in a way I've always been fascinated by the mechanics of growing up. Even as a kid, I took detailed notes in my Judy Blume diary.”

“This One Summer” is available for preorder at Amazon.com and IndieBound as well as local bookstores. When in search for a rejuvenating story consisting of laughter, suspense, mystery and excitement, one doesn't need to look further than this intricately woven narrative fulfilling a promise of memorable pleasure and anticipation for the upcoming change of season.