I picked up “This One Summer”, and by the second page I knew I was going to have a problem putting it down again. I must have a real insight into the crazy maze I call my brain (What a shocker!), because I finished it that night. Considering the fact that it is a graphic novel, I guess some wouldn’t consider that a huge feat. Owning my disagree: I gave myself a pat on the back and then flipped to the beginning to read it all over again, just to take a closer look. I found the artwork of this novel to be refreshing, constricting, freeing, powerful, and a little childish all at once. The characters are drawn with an air of seriousness with a dash of cartoony thrown in- enough to have some delightful leeway with their portrayal (Some of Windy’s expressions are my favorite) while at the same time able to depict them in serious settings.
The two pictures on the top of page 300 were the most poignant for me. Seeing the blood as evidence of what her mother had just experienced and then in the next frame seeing her walk right by her daughter as if everything was normal made me stop. Her mother walked out of that ocean and passed her daughter as if nothing had happened, and then went on to function in the rest of the world, her daughter’s world, while still coming to terms with what her miscarriage (which she clearly hasn’t, not completely, even a year later). This shift in her world is represented in three frames. Nothing is explicitly expressed (there are no graphic depictions, and the word ‘miscarriage isn’t even used) because it doesn’t need to be. They say that big things come in small packages, and the same is true of bad news. It doesn’t always have a dramatic entrance complete with fireworks and explosions, sometimes it just sneaks in subtly and leaves a hole. The representation of the miscarriage and Rose discovering it are equally subtle.
This is why “This One Summer” is one of my favorite texts in the course. It presents realistic material in a way that caters to YA readers. I don’t mean to say its ‘simple’ or ‘childish’, but it’s a lot easier to understand something if there are pictures involved. It cements the concept- probably why so many textbooks include pictures and drawn diagrams. “This One Summer” is hardly that technical, but it gets the point across. YA readers come from many ages and maturity levels, and “This One Summer” tries to make the concept appropriate and accessible for all of them.
Aside from the miscarriage, it offers a look at the dynamics of the family. Not only Rose’s own actions and thoughts, but also the interactions between the parents, and the extended family. Very rarely in this course are parents shown interacting deeply with one another because one is normally absent. In “The Crazy Man”, the protagonist’s father is around for a little bit, but there is no interaction with the mother, even before he leaves. In “Swimmers”, the parents are always encountered during their interactions with their son and not with each other. Rose’s parents fight, yell, and disagree. This is reality. Her dad takes some time away to cool off, she fights with her mom, and this is ‘real’. Arguing with parents is a given of the teenage years, and no set of parents (or couples, for that matter) are completely perfect and never disagree. Especially during such an emotionally traumatic time.
We never see if Rose’s parents get a divorce, or if they get their relationship to a better place. But it isn’t a tragic ending. What we see is some hope: of going back to the beach next summer, having ‘massive boobs’, and a peace offering between her parents in the form of a comforting hand on the shoulder and an offer to drive the first leg of the trip home. It isn’t a ‘happy’ ending, per-say, but isn’t that what we as a class had issues with in regards to “Blink and Caution”? The same goes for the theorists we talked about on March 13th, who were concerned about too many books having unrealistic plots and endings just to serve as entertainment value while misleading teens searching for bibliotherapy?
– Ashley Hardwick