Rose and Windy have been meeting each other every summer at Awago Beach, a sleepy strip of seaside cottages. In “This One Summer,” Jillian and Mariko Tamaki follow the two pals over the crucial months when they linger on the edges of the town’s older teens, waiting to be invited. Below is an exclusive peek into the gorgeous upcoming graphic novel.
Jillian’s lyrical artwork (how does anyone draw like this!?) complements Mariko’s keen ear for the patter of girlhood conversations — the friends rib each other on their gross townie crushes, talk about the ginormous ta-tas they want to grow, and scream over the gory movie rentals they’re barely able to endure.
But mostly, Windy is earthy, content, comfortable in her skin, while Rose is the yearning and imaginative one, always peeking into other people’s backyard parties, eavesdropping on the older teens’ flirtations, worrying about how to approach them. It’s a mark of adolescence to always envy and imagine how much fun others are having, and Jillian and Mariko get that exactly right.
Without spoiling too much, it’s also very much about the loneliness of women dealing with pregnancy — unwanted, miscarried, single-mothered, or otherwise.
There’s a sweetness to “This One Summer” that feels more atmospheric and less narratively raw than the Tamakis’ last collaboration, “Skim,” which followed a Japanase-Canadian goth girl falling in love with the woman who teaches her. There are times you wish for a more prying look into the teens’ secret longings, as in Wells Towers’ “Wild America,” or in Jennifer Egan’s “Sisters Of The Moon.” Conflict is treated with a light touch here, mostly overheard or observed off-hand between the adults and older kids, but whenever there’s raw conflict, it’s so deftly portrayed that I wanted more.
But perhaps this is exactly the book it needs to be: a snapshot of a mostly-sweet summer gone too quickly, of bickering parents and our awkward custody over the weird meat vessels of our bodies. Mariko writes in a way that doesn’t make you begrudge Rose her innocence and comforts, but instead root for her to savor them. When the vacationers begin to drain from the town, and all the teens working summer jobs disappear to go back to school, you feel the familiar blues.