This One Summer
by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
First Second, 2014. 317 pages. Graphic Novel
Every summer, Rose's family spends an idyllic two weeks in Awago Beach, a place "where beer grows on trees and everyone can sleep in until eleven." But now that Rose is on the cusp of adolescence, she's finding that life is far more complicated than she'd ever dreamt before: For one, her parents are fighting. Two, she's becoming increasingly aware of the activities of older teenagers, social and socio-economic strata, and the perils of self-image. To make matters worse, her friend Windy seems blithely unconcerned with the things that are starting to matter quite a lot to Rose, which complicates their relationship. The story is a quiet one, veering between Rose's enjoyment of her summer rituals to the secret, agonizing grief over the strife in her parents' marriage.
The book deserves the shiny honor awards on its cover -- full of fine storytelling, characterization, deft dialogue, and beautiful artwork, This One Summer is a graceful exploration of the joys (and pains!) of growing up and realizing that even paradise has its flaws. Tamaki's artwork is evocative of director Hayao Miyazaki's and Studio Ghibli's, which helps to absorb some of the blows delivered via the story and text. With some heavier themes, content, and language, save this one for older teens.