By Alexa Dumas
“Awago Beach is this place. Where my family goes every summer. Ever since…like…forever.”
Ever since Rose Wallace was a little girl, her family spent the summers at Awago Beach. This summer seems to be different, as Rose’s mother, Alice, is on edge emotionally. Once the family arrives, Rose is met by her friend, Windy, who lives nearby the Wallace’s vacation spot.
Although the two girls have spent numerous summers together, this summer is different, as the girls are going through puberty.
Boys, love, loss and plenty of swimming can be found between the lines.
“This One Summer” is a coming of age graphic novel, published in 2014, and was written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki.
The graphic novel is illustrated in a simplistic style, with purple lines replacing the regular black lines that are normally found in comics. The color of the lines set “This One Summer” apart from other graphic novels, as it shows the whimsical nature of both the story and illustrations.
Since puberty is at the forefront of the graphic novel, the girls dive into the drama that some of the teens within the small beach town are facing. Rose and Windy frequent a small corner store whenever they are in search of snacks or peruse the rental movie section, as they both love to watch scary movies. As the graphic novel progresses, they discover that Duncan, the boy who works behind the counter, has gotten Jenny, a teen girl who works at the local historical village, pregnant.
The news of Jenny’s pregnancy is almost like a mystery to the two girls. They act like detectives and try to search for clues in order to discover the truth about Duncan and Jenny’s relationship. Rose then discovers that she has a crush on Duncan, even though they don’t know each other, besides the encounters at the store. This perpetuates the theme of puberty within the graphic novel, as both Rose and Windy discuss their budding sexuality and interest toward boys.
As Rose starts to discover her interest in boys, she notices the opposite is happening to her mother. Throughout “This One Summer,” the concept of fertility and motherhood is put into question, as it is revealed that Rose’s parents have been struggling with getting pregnant again.
Once back at Awago Beach, the couple have arguments that stem from Alice’s depression, as she had a miscarriage last year on the beach. Rose watches her parents’ relationship falter, and she becomes more aware of how the adults in her life interact and coexist in the world she is just beginning to understand.
The themes of “This One Summer” are simple in nature, as puberty, motherhood, love and friendship allow readers to reminisce on their own adolescence.
It may come as a surprise, but “This One Summer” has been on the American Library Association’s banned books list in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, where it was the most banned or challenged book in 2016.
According to the American Library Association, “This One Summer” was banned due to profanity, LGBTQ+ themes, drug use, being sexually explicit and unsuited for the intended age group.
Parents and library patrons in Oregon, Minnesota and Florida have called for the removal of the graphic novel from their school and library shelves, but the book was retained and kept in the hands of readers. The reasons for censoring the novel are perplexing, as these themes are minimal if one spent the time to actually read “This One Summer.”
Although the graphic novel has had censorship attempts, this doesn’t mean readers can’t enjoy the book. “This One Summer” is an adorable, fast-paced graphic novel that can be easily read in an hour. It feels like a jump back to middle school, where the stresses of the world were not yet apparent.
The individuality of the two girls, their strong friendship, along with their love of horror movies, makes readers think back to their childhood summers and how they may have been spent. Personally, I loved the reference to the band, Rush, as the authors tapped into their Canadian roots.
“This One Summer” cannot get enough praise. The simple writing and artistic style set it apart from other graphic novels. The author’s themes are subtle but effective. If you are looking for an undemanding read, “This One Summer” by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki is the novel for you.