This 300+ page graphic novel was conceived by cousins Jillian and Mariko Tamaki, the creators of the critically acclaimed Skim. The story follows Rose, a pre-teen whose parents are in a rough patch, and whose friend Windy – a year and a half younger than she – is a ball of energy and slightly annoying. Over the course of her time spent at a cottage for yet another summer, Rose talks about boobs, watches horror films, and gets intertwined with local store clerk Duncan’s life.
What is so delectable about this book is that it may read like a young adult novel, but it’s depth of character and theme rival some of the best writers of our time. Mariko is in charge of the words. She perfectly gets inside of Rose’s head as she narrates the story, but also nails the dialogue and emotional output of a wide range of characters. Sometimes – especially in comics – dialogue seems almost like an afterthought. It’s there to help guide the plot that the pictures can’t tell. In this case, it drives us deeper into the characters and makes a connection not often found in comics.
If Mariko’s words can do all of that, Jillian’s art is nearly a masterpiece. Expressed in black, white and grey, the artist uses heavy contrasting images and large portions of blank space to focus the reader onto a detail. While that is common in comics, what isn’t common is that she uses these techniques to tap into emotions ranging from uncertainty to tension. There’s certain pages that emphasize quick panels, highlighting a wide variety of thoughts and plot, while some of the best work are entire pages of large panels dedicated to a single moment.
The story and art are so cohesively married that this is something that everyone would enjoy. Simply put, it gives you the satisfaction of a novel that takes you on an emotional ride, much like The Fault in Our Stars, but has the brevity and delectable art of some of the most influential comics around.
After 300+ pages I felt both satisfied and craving more, but not really wanting more because it would ruin such a beautiful experience. This One Summer might be about preteen girls, but it will teach a 25-year-old man a thing or two about life.
Below is a page excerpt from the book.