Tamaki, Mariko & Jillian. This One Summer.

NY: First Second, 2014.

The Tamaki sisters, one writing the story and the other doing the art, made a splash a few years ago with Skim, about a rather geeky and overweight teenager in a private school. I really liked the true-to-life writing, though I had some reservations about the slightly strange artwork. This one again follows a young girl through a very ordinary piece of growing up, though it seems much more complicated to her.

Rose, who is tall and skinny and appears to be eleven or twelve, has been staying at a cottage at Awago Beach with her folks every summer since she was five. (Since the authors are Canadian, that’s probably on a large lake someplace in Ontario.) She has a “summer friend” a year and a half younger (and smaller and chunkier) named Windy, whose personality is quite different from hers, but they seem to make a good match. And nearly every day, they swim in the lake and explore the woods and rent videos from the little convenience store, which is the only place in the vicinity to buy anything. All very quiet and unexciting, right?

But Dunc, the sixteen-year-old who runs the little store (and whom Windy christens “the Dud”) may have gotten his girlfriend pregnant — or so the overheard gossip leads the two girls to believe. And there’s the continuing tension between her parents, who have been trying with notable lack of success to have a second child. (Will Rose’s mom ever come out of her bedroom?) And there’re all those horror movies, watched on a laptop, which they aren’t actually old enough to have, and which scare the crap out of them even while they’re laughing at them.

As with their previous work, the writing is top notch, with entirely believable characters, plausible real-life situations, and reasonable (which is to say “not perfect”) resolutions. The artwork still feels a little odd — I mean, not everyone in the world is really that strangely ugly, are they? — but even that is an improvement over last time, with facial expressions being especially well done. My only caveat is that the suggested age range for readers is 12-18, which seems a little low, given some of the themes. Not that tweens and younger teenagers don’t have to deal with this stuff all the time, of course, but their parents might not want to believe it.

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