For Rose, summers at Awago Beach are a constant. She and her parents have been renting a cottage there for as long as she can remember, and none of the changes in her life can alter the yearly trip to the beach—not even her parents’ sudden surge of fights. She’s reunited with her best beach friend Windy, and at first everything falls into the usual rhythm. But her mother won’t join in the fun, no matter how hard Rose and her father try to pull her in, and the year-and-a-half age gap that separates Rose from Windy seems bigger than before.

As things between her parents get worse and Windy seems more and more irritating, Rose focuses on the drama surrounding the local DVD rental store and the cute boy who works behind the counter. She and Windy discover that his girlfriend is pregnant, but Rose is certain her crush isn’t at fault.

This One Summer effortlessly captures the moment when the adult world begins to seep into childhood’s summertime rituals.

Written and illustrated by the team behind the critically acclaimed graphic novel Skim (2008), This One Summer perfectly captures the comfort of returning to a safe place steeped in tradition, and the dawning realization that no matter how static a place may stay, the process of growing up forces a change in feelings and perceptions. Author Mariko Tamaki does a masterful job of tackling issues often shied away from in young adult novels, such as the instinct to blame a girl for an unplanned pregnancy rather than the boy, either out of jealousy or a sense of societal norms. Tamaki also excels at weaving in questions of bodies and boys in an authentic preteen voice.

Illustrator Jillian Tamaki’s artwork complements the story perfectly, slowing it down when the pace needs to be calmed and focusing on unusual details—such as what it’s like to look through a gummy candy—to really connect the reader to the scenes.

This One Summer is a beautiful book in more ways than one and will have readers eager for summer vacation. Its illustrations will stay with you as much as the unique-yet-relatable narrative.


This article was originally published in the May 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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