Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artist: Jillian Tamaki
Publisher: Groundwood Books
While superheroes are an amazing subject for comics and graphic novels, they don’t always need to be the main characters. Sometimes a graphic novel that focuses on a normal human being can be the perfect read. People throughout their lives come across strange, terrifying, happy and confusing adventures that can be translated to amazing stories to tell. And don’t most of the entertaining adventures happen during our teenage years? The years when everything is just more dramatic, when all emotions are not being dulled down by having a full time job or worrying about bills to pay. There are plenty of ways to relate to the story of a teenager. (And if we can’t relate, us adults can look at them and shake our heads at all that teenage shenanigans.)
Back when I wasn’t at all familiar with graphic novels, I stumbled upon an absolute gem in a second hand shop. Today I’ll be reviewing that gem! It’s the book called Skim, written by the amazing Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by the incredible Jillian Tamaki. My book is the Dutch version, published by Sherpa. The original English version was published by Groundwood Books Ltd.
It’s a slice of life story following a young chubby girl during the year 1993. Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a.k.a. Skim, goes to an all girl school and has a big interest in wicca. Different scenes get introduced through Skim’s diary, making it easy to immerse yourself into her character. She is an interesting girl that isn’t pushed into a stereotype like the hot popular girl, crazy weird one or mousy shy nerd. Even the characters that are around her, like her best friend or another girl at school are described in a way that make them normal people with their own personality, dealing with their personal struggles and weirdness. I find it very refreshing to read a story and just be understanding of the situation and the people in it, instead of praising the good and judging the bad. This story is not polarising, however when you can relate to it, you will feel things. More specifically because the highlighted topic in this book is love. I believe we all know or have felt that the journey of discovering love is full of hardships and happiness, disappointments and successes, failed attempts and unexpected wins. In Skim we see many different consequences to love. For example the fact that Kim’s parents are divorced and where there was once love there’s mainly judgement and misunderstanding. Another example is how a girl at school broke up with her boyfriend, who ended up taking his life. Kim’s relationship with her best friend represents the fine line between love and hate. And of course I can’t forget to mention there’s also a forbidden love story between Kim and her drama teacher miss Archer. All of that is a lot to deal with and Mariko Tamaki writes it down beautifully, accompanied by the heartfelt illustrations of Jillian Tamaki.
I remember the first time reading this and just being in awe of the amazing creative team of the Tamaki cousins. The art fits perfectly with the story. They have a unique way of perfectly putting real life emotional situations on paper. Next to Skim, they have also created This One Summer.
Both are critically acclaimed works and I’m eagerly waiting for the next time they get together and create some more magic.