Book Club / Things That They Can’t Say in Words

This One SummerThis One Summer
Written by Mariko Tamaki
Art by Jillian Tamaki


All comic books are made up out of moments. But come on – that’s obvious. A panel is a frozen moment in time. It’s a picture of something moving – captured in a single instant. And a comic is a whole string of single moments all strung together. Written in such a way to trick you that you’re actually experiencing something real. Something that’s moving. Something that’s alive. 

This One Summer looks like the kind of book that I’d normally be pretty dismissive of. It’s a slice of life kinda thing. No monsters. No robots. No spaceships. Just two girls hanging out and spending the summer together. Sounds pretty boring right? I mean – comics can do so much so what’s the point in telling a story in comic form that you could tell better in a novel or a film? 

Except – ha – come on: I’m not completely oblivious. And This One Summer is very obviously a beautifully and expertly crafted piece of work. If most comics are like cheap and nasty digital watches – this is like an expensive grandfather clock: every small part of it running just so and everything perfectly organised and working in harmony. I mean it’s actually almost scary how good this book is – even more so when I think about how two seperate people made this (Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki). I mean I realise that this hopelessly vague but there’s something about the specificity and (dare I say it?) grace in the way that this book is constructed that makes it feel like it must have sprung from the mind of one person. It feels almost somehow impossible that one person wrote it and another person drew it. It’s all too accurate. Too specific. Not just in the story that’s told and the characters. But the way they look. They way they hold themselves. Their actions. The expressions on their faces. The small little gestures that give them away. 

And yeah to go back to this idea of moments – This One Summer is full of them. And every panel is like a captured snowflake – delicate and unique. It’s like… I don’t know – most other comics feel like they’re using panels just to convey somekind of blunt piece of information. This is Who is Speaking Now. This Person is Leaving the Scene. This Guy is Angry at this Guy. These Two People are in Love. etc. 

But This One Summer makes you feel like you’re looking at actual people. Everyone is messy. Everyone has depths. Everyone is trying to express things that they can’t say in words.

Basically – it’s great. If only all comics were this good. Reading it is like experiencing a tiny little bit of magic. Captured moments that come to life inside your head. The artwork is so good that it actually hurts a little to look at it and the way everything in the story falls into place feels like listening to a miniature symphony where every single note is perfectly placed and aligned just right.  

Very much worth checking out. 

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