By Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
Recently, This One Summer was removed from a public school in Minnesota. Therefore, it has been the subject of many online library and comic book articles of late. Within the last year or so, I purchased this graphic novel at my local comic shop during their semi-annual sale. I liked the art and the overall feel of the book. I couldn’t remember any reason why it should be taken from the school completely, so I took the opportunity to reread it. After rereading it, I still do not agree with the school’s decision to remove it. I understand that the school has students ranging from elementary to high school, but I believe that middle school, high school, and university students would greatly benefit from reading this graphic novel. In addition, I fully believe that parents should read it too. It would be a great opportunity for families to bring up hard topics and have real-life discussions.
The entire story is set in Awago Beach, a small summer beach town. Each year Rose Wallace travels with her parents to spend the summer there, where she has the chance to reconnect with her summer friend, Windy. Windy travels with her mother and grandmother. Windy and Rose immediately set out to have fun at the beach, have meals with their families, and watch horror flicks (which is not necessarily an approved activity, but they are young teens and do it anyway). The reason they watch so many horror films is so that Rose can see Duncan, the cashier at the only store in town, basically a convenient store and movie rental shop. The store is consistently surrounded by teenagers who are vulgar and crass. They pretend to try to be quiet when the girls come through, but they don’t do a good job of masking their attitudes. It is through these peripheral exchanges that the girls learn more about the locals and they start incorporating the older teens’ vocabulary (much to the distaste of Rose’s mother). The girls learn that Jenny may be pregnant with Duncan as the father, but he is not supportive and won’t even talk to her till she goes to a doctor to confirm. Meanwhile, Rose’s mom and dad are fighting, which Rose assumes is all about her mom trying to have another baby and continually failing.
“You should tell her. Kids are…they get it.” That line told by Windy’s mother to Rose’s mother seems to sum up what the author intended to express about children, specifically young adults. Children are not dumb. They know things, they see things, and they hear things. Since the story is told from the perspective of young teens who are in the process of growing up, they only hear half of what the adults and older teens are saying, which causes them to formulate their own conclusions about what is going on. Their often incorrect assumptions only stresses the importance of families actually being present to talk to their kids, even if the kid doesn’t want to talk either. The girls talk with each other, but while Windy tries to be there for Rose, she is still a free spirit who wants to play and have fun. She is not burdened with all of the same stresses and certainly does not care about crushes and boys. Whereas, Rose is trying to grow up faster so that she can be more like the teens she is observing.
The beauty of this book is its discussion about pregnancy. Some people want kids and can’t seem to get or stay pregnant, while other people don’t want kids and can easily get or stay pregnant. This topic of pregnancy permeates throughout the graphic novel, but is only directly discussed on a few pages. I think the author and illustrator did an excellent job balancing such a difficult topic within the confines of traditional and non-traditional families. The dialog is real and the illustrations are perfect exposition. It is my opinion that this graphic novel truly earned the awards it achieved: Caldecott Honor Book and Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature from the American Library Association (ALA) and should not be too hastily removed from middle school, high school, or public libraries.