It's the second installment of YA Book Club in Paradise. For the month of June, we read This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki. So why don't we get things started straight away and let Mary introduce the book?
Mary: Ok! This One Summer is a 2014 graphic novel (published by First Second, one of my favorite publishers) written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, who are cousins. The story follows friends Rose and Windy during a summer at Awago Beach. The girls watch scary movies rented from the convenience store, spy on the cashier, Dunc, and become interested in his personal drama--his girlfriend Jenny is pregnant. Meanwhile, Rose's mom has been depressed all summer, and gradually the reason why becomes clear. I don't know if that's a good summary or not, but this comic has a lot going on!
Emily: So Mary, this was your pick. Why did you pick it?
Mary: Weeeeeell, I picked it because 1) I love Jillian Tamaki. She wrote another graphic novel I love called Super Mutant Magic Academy, and I like the way she depicts girls' bodies as being, well, varied! Rose is very tall and thin and Windy is chubby and short, and those are both valid, good ways to be. I also love graphic novels and wanted to get you to read one that I thought might interest you. Also, SUMMER! Emily, you don't usually pick comics to read and they aren't your jam. What was your first impression of the comic and how did you enjoy it?8:21 PM
Emily: Yeah, I think you definitely picked one with subject matter that is usually interesting to me. So the reason I don't normally go for comics is a couple of things. I think the number one thing is I'm not a very visual person. And I know you compared it to movies, but I feel like even with movies with subtitles, the movie is moving those things along the screen for me so I don't have to do so much work reading the images. Secondly, I'm a novel reader more than anything else. That's what I prefer over short stories or poems or anything. Because I like spending time in a world and getting invested. Comics are short and you have to remember to come back to them when the next one comes out, which is why I'm more likely to read a graphic novel than a comic. Comics are just not my jam AT ALL.
Mary: And that is valid. I just love comics so much I want others to love them, too, I think, even though that's not always possible. A lot of people think, comics are just superheroes, and that's what turns them off. But there are so many great comics out there!
Emily: With all of this being said, I mentioned to you that reading this one was a little easier, because I read it on my kindle and it moved the panels for me.
Mary: Comixology does that too! It's great.
Emily: Yeah, I definitely realize there are more than superhero comics out there, so it's not that. I think all the pictures are just overwhelming for me and it's not FUN for me to read because it's hard. I don't look down on them at all.
Mary: For sure! The subject mater of this one hits a lot of high points for us though--Girls and girlhood, growing up, family dynamics, friendship! 8:28 PM
Emily: Yeah and there's a LOT about the scary part of adult women's bodies in this book.
Emily: And this is actually something we talked a lot about when we were in our panel this week at the ChLA (Children's Literature Association) Conference in San Antonio. I mentioned how I cried when I found out I was going to get my period. And I feel like Rose is the type of girl who might have cried when she found out about periods too. Like, she's not ready to be a woman.
Mary: Yeah, Emily and I were on a panel where we talked about Stephen King and how he depicts children--and we talked about menstruation A LOT. In a good way. I guess we should go ahead and spoil: Rose's mom is depressed because they are taking the trip to Awago beach on the one year anniversary of a miscarriage, and that is a hard memory for her to confront.
Emily: Yeah, that seems hard. I really felt for her.
Mary: And when Rose finds that out, and hears her mother talking about it, it's intense to read. The miscarriage seems so natural, in a way, like the baby just got to drift off in the water, but also, how hard is that? It's a natural thing bodies do but it is also horrifying--you can't control it and sometimes it happens even if you do everything "right." Rose can't really process that information--and I don't really think anyone can. It's just hard.
Emily: Right. Rose lost something too. She lost a sibling she never even knew she was supposed to have.
Mary: And that storyline pairs really nicely with the girls seeing Dunc and his girlfriend Jenny experiencing pregnancy.
Emily: UGH I FELT SO BAD FOR JENNY!
Mary: Dunc is trash.
Emily: Men are trash. I guess Rose's dad is okay but even he is kinda not doing the best with his wife and stuff idk...
Mary: Yeeeeah. True. There's an added layer with Dunc and Jenny because they very much aren't expecting to have a baby. They're so young. It's a contrast to Rose's parents who wanted a baby and wanted a sibling for Rose. And were more prepared for it. AND! All the pregnancy stuff ties into the unpredictability of bodies and the horror of bodies and being a woman. The girls are directly growing into that and are simultaneously curious and repulsed by it. They know about sex but they don't really know about it, and it all seems very scary and strange. And they're figuring out their bodies.
Emily: Sort of like the scary movies they watch, which they're also curious about and repulsed by.
Mary: And scared of!
Emily: Yep! Clearly a metaphor for their changing bodies and stuff.
Mary: Confession: I have only seen one of the horror movies they watch.
Emily: What! Which one?
Mary: I've seen Jaws. But not Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street.
Emily: Okay I was going to be a little upset if you hadn't seen Jaws. Let's talk about Jaws for a second.
Mary: *insert Jaws music here*
Emily: What do you make of the fact that they watch Jaws and then Rose's dad pretends to be a shark while they're swimming?
Mary: Hmm...He didn't know they watched Jaws, right?
Emily: No, they hid the movies from their parents.
Mary: As someone who grew up with the movie, it's probably a natural association he'd make. My dad played Jaws with me when I was a kid. I think we could read more into it, but I'm not sure what. I have conference braaaaain.
Emily: Okay, I actually just thought of something. Bear with me here because I also have conference brain. The girls claim they're not scared of Jaws, and I'm wondering if it has anything to do with the way water is associated/connected to women's bodies, not just in this graphic novel but just in folklore and in general. The ocean supports them. The shark is can be seen as like, IDK, part of the ocean? Look. I'm losing the metaphor here. I had it earlier and now it's gone. Let's just move on.
Mary: No, I'm not going to leave it. The shark is predatory in a way. It's predatory to have a grown man be the shark, I guess. I don't think he meant it that way, but it comes across that way reading it as an outsider. Jaws is so much about the unknown--you only see the shark a little and even then it looks like a product of its time (but still cool, you know). The girls are also jumping into the unknown of puberty and teenagerdom. There are some similarities.
Emily: And there's also a whole thing about blood in the water attracting a shark, and the mom bled her baby out in the water. Sorry, that's a weird way to say that.
Mary: No, it's true. It's what happened.
Emily: And then later she saves a pregnant woman from the water. So it's like, the water is representative of a female space but that space is also dangerous and unknown.
Mary: What about the art style? Like I said at the beginning, I love Jillian Tamaki's art style. She draws bodies in a nuanced way and in This One Summer, her characters are still comic-ish, cartoon-ish, but there's so much nice variation between them. I also really like how she draws faces. Older women look older, but still pretty to me.
Emily: So we went to a panel about This One Summer yesterday morning and one of the presenters pointed out the one drawing where Rose enters the water and becomes a clitoris, and I'm very interested in the way the women's bodies reacted to the water in these drawings. That seemed like an important visual motif throughout.
Mary: That is so funny you mention that panel because when she said that I thought strongly I DO NOT AGREE. Like, I see it, but I don't know that I agree. But I do agree that there's a lot going on with women and the water here, which makes sense to me---water has a very feminine energy. And also the flexibility of the water, the adaptability of the water is key both in the plot and in the way women are taught to adapt to the needs of others around them.
Emily: I don't know, how can you NOT see a clitoris in this picture, Mary?
Mary: I mean I SEE IT, but I didn't agree with the interpretation of the panel. Because she was reading it like a picture book, BUT THAT IS A DIFFERENT ISSUE. That is a boring academic issue. Like, yes, there is a clitoris, but you could say that about a lot of things.
Emily: Okay, but whether or not there's a clitoris, I don't see what that has to do with it being read like a picture book.
Mary: Fair. In my mind, I'm thinking that comics are in motion. Your brain processes the panels as motion, so my mind read that panel as someone swimming, not a clit. But I get it. It's a valid reading.
Emily: Clits can be in motion.
Emily: Well, if Rose is the clit, the water becomes a vulva.
Mary: Where's Windy in all of this?
Emily: Windy is awesome. I was so proud of her for calling out Rose for being sexist.
Mary: I want to be Windy when I grow up.
Emily: Rose spouts out a whole lot of woman-hating dialogue throughout the book, and finally Windy is like, yo, you are being sexist, which is cool because Windy is YOUNGER than Rose. So I like that she's younger but doesn't assume Rose knows what she's talking about.
Mary: Windy also dances so purely. It's very sweet to me that she dances and lets her belly hang out of her shirts and is just very free. She doesn't know people will judge her for that. And that's good!
Emily: Or she doesn't care that people will judge her.
Mary: Mariko Tamaki has talked in interviews about how when she was a kid she was fat and didn't see herself in any of the stories she read. So she's made a conscious decision to have fat characters in her work who have more to their characters than being fat. They're fat, but they're a lot of other things more importantly.
Emily: I don't think Windy's body type comes up, except when she's talking about her boobs.
Mary: Right! but who doesn't at that age? Everyone talks about their boobs. That is a normal girl thing, I think.
Mary: Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I'd suggest it to people who are hesitant to read comics but like a lot of YA stuff.
Emily: Yes, I fit into that category, and I enjoyed this very much!
Mary: Yessss. So do you want to tell everyone about our book for next month?
Emily: Yes! July's book is Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake. Mary and I both got this book in Owl Crate, like, AGES ago. People have been talking a lot about this series. The second book is out already, so I figured we needed to go ahead and read this.
Mary: Yes! ALMOST PARADIIIISE
Emily: WE'RE KNOCKING ON HEAVEN'S DOOOR.
Mary: That is all for this month.
Emily: Yes, come back at the end of July for our next book please! Bye!