Tuesday 30 October 2018

#CBR10 Book 93: "This One Summer" by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

Page count: 319 pages
Rating: 4 stars

#CBR10Bingo: Snubbed- it won the Eisner Award in 2015, but was also nominated for a whole host of other things that it lost out on.

Spoiler warning! There will be some spoilers for the plot of this book (which I knew next to nothing about going in, myself), because it will be impossible for me to discuss the contents of the story and my reaction to it without referring to certain plot points in detail. If you want to approach this without knowing anything, maybe skip this review or at least the paragraphs I've tagged.

Every summer Rose and her parents go to Arwago Beach. They have their set rituals and it's Rose's favourite time of the year. Her friend Windy is also there, and she and Rose are inseparable all summer. Something is different this year, though. There's a tension between Rose's parents and they keep fighting when they think Rose can't hear them. For a while, Rose's dad actually leaves, so there's just Rose and her mum at the cabin. Rose is also a lot more fascinated by what the older teens of the area are up to, which creates a certain friction between her and Windy.

This could easily have been a pick for the "Fahrenheit 451" square of the CBR10Bingo, as it was the most banned and challenged book in America in 2016. People get upset and offended by the strangest things. Yes, this book features teenagers drinking (and possibly taking drugs, I forget) and having sex and it also features teenagers dealing with the consequences of said actions. I would thing a realistic depiction of youths doing what young people are wont to do, and an exploration of what that could lead to would be something to welcome. There are a number of good discussions to be had based on the events of Rose's summer.

Here be spoilers! I didn't really know much about the plot specifics of this book. I knew it was very critically acclaimed and that it had been banned and challenged. It was a Cannonball Book Exchange gift from MathildeHoeg in 2016. Based on the cover, I thought maybe it dealt with LGBTQ issues (but no, Rose and Windy are not lesbians). Instead it deals with teen pregnancy, which I suppose is why it's so horrifying to some.

The subplot that really affected me, however, and which made me very glad that I didn't read this when I actually got the book, is the one regarding Rose's mother and the reason she no longer seems herself and refuses to go swimming any longer, and why she's arguing a lot with Rose's dad. Turns out, Rose's parents have been dealing with fertility problems for years, which has been taxing their relationship a lot, and Rose's mother is still getting over a miscarriage, which happened while she was in a pool. Eventually, she does go in the water, for a very important reason, but I don't want to spoil the specifics of that, as well.

I feel very grateful that in the many years that my husband and I struggled with fertility problems and I kept resolutely not getting pregnant, no matter what we tried - various fertility monitors, diets, exercise plans and later several courses of IVF, complete with invasive hormone treatments, painful injections, gruelling egg extractions and a substantial financial drain, I never miscarried. I didn't get excited about the possibility of life growing inside me, only to have to deal with knowing that the pregnancy was cut short. I just never conceived (until I finally did - he will be nine months old next week!). Nevertheless, reading about Rose's mother's quiet grief absolutely did me in. I don't think that's an issue that will affect most readers, but to me, especially because I didn't know to even expect it, that storyline really gut punched me and made the book a very different reading experience than expected. End spoilers!

This One Summer is a lovely coming of age story, wonderfully written by Mariko Tamaki and possibly even more beautifully illustrated throughout by her sister Jillian. Rose and Windy's escapades over the summer are fun to share, Rose's curiosity about the older teens is very natural, and I found the parents' amused reactions to their daughters' antics very relatable at this stage in my life. Highly recommended for anyone who likes good writing and pretty artwork.

Judging a book by its cover: Jillian Tamaki's art is excellent throughout the book and the cover beautifully captures the magic of summer when you're young. Friendship, freedom, the chance to bathe and relax. The art was one of my favourite things about this whole book.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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