It never occurred to me when I was young that when I grew up I might not have whole summers off to read piles of novels while sun tanning my body to a ridiculous deep brown(I am naturally pale). So, recently after reading the graphic novel, This One Summer, it was refreshing to be transported back in time. This short graphic novel with its amazing pictures made me think back to when I was an awkward pre teen, with a mouth full of metal braces and my Tin Grins Are In t t-shirt. Still on the outskirts of the real adult world, afraid to swim in fresh water lakes because I had seen Jaws on the big screen theatre and was sure that I would have my legs eaten. After reading it, I could close my eyes and be back in Lake of the Woods with the scent of pine needles fresh and strong, the hot sun burning my shoulders, the cool lake water lapping at my toes. I could just fall into the meticulously drawn images. I wanted to be that age again.
As an adult, I adored it. It took me back to the world of being in between a child and a grown up. Did I mention that there was a bit of controversy about this book? It won the Caldecott award that is primarily given to picture books. Apparently many schools ordered it for middle grade libraries, unaware of the content. I do see why a parent might not want their middle grade children reading it, as it brings up some tough topics. Like why are women condemned if they have sex but men are not? A young teen in this novel gets pregnant, and we get to watch the story unfold from a younger girl’s eyes. She is a witness to the teenaged boys biased view of the pregnancy. I googled the correct term for this and it is labelled, the socialization of blaming the victim.
It is brilliant the way one drawing of the young girls flip-flops making the sound, slut slut slut as she walks home portrays her pondering the way the world treats women.
My teenager only read half of it. When I enquired why she didn’t want to stay up all night to finish it, she replied, ‘It was okay’. Just okay? But, I think it may appeal to grown women because we can remember the angst of being this age. Wanting to understand our place in the world during different stages of our lives, first as a young girl, then a teenaged girl, and then a woman.
I think a younger audience is still forming these ideas about themselves and might not understand the gender inequality messages it is portraying. I think older teens might appreciate this book better than younger ones.
I am definitely buying a copy of this to treasure. Comics have sure come a long way since my days of swapping copies of Archie and Sabrina the Teenaged Witch with the neighbours. And I love that women are now becoming major contenders in the graphic novel scene.