This One Summer

I miss summer. Yesterday was cold and rainy. This morning, it snowed. Now the sun is playing hide and seek through the clouds but only because the wind won’t let up. It’s the kind of wind that blows your car door wide open, hitting the car parked next to it. Or in my case, gives that extra push when you’re about to lose your footing on the slick ice. Have I mentioned that I hate winter?

While I’m on my mini rant, I might as well add that my teen years were miserable. Somehow I survived the awkward, painful years of liking boys who were too cool to be seen talking to me, begging for contacts, only to find they did nothing for my cool factor, and enduring hours of gym class, humiliated every time I got hit in the face with a volleyball or picked next to last for teams. I wasn’t allowed to go to parties or concerts so I didn’t have much in common with the cool Asian crowd. I wasn’t a band geek, or in drama. I was too shy for student council or anything that involved being in the center of attention. I was a floater who didn’t really fit in anywhere. And then there was that one year when this one girl made up horrible lies about me and everyone believed them. Is it any wonder that I came out the other end wearing black clothes, combat boots, with my nose buried in a book?

Reading was definitely an escape for me, still is, which is why it’s rare that I choose to read about those years. It’s not a time I like to revisit. But First Second hasn’t let me down yet. I have loved everything they put out. This is no exception.

“This One Summer” is in blue scale, giving it a melancholy feel. It has beautiful two page spreads without words. And just like in conversation, I appreciate a person who knows when it’s appropriate to speak and when silence says volumes. And sometimes one word can cut through everything. It’s a short story about one summer in Rose’s life. Her family goes to Awago Beach every year, a longstanding tradition that is meant to be a familiar getaway. But this year, life is complicated and they are too tangled to escape it all. There is a dark cloud that follows her mother. Anyone who gets close is bound to feel the storm. As it often happens to teenagers, where you’re no longer a child but not quite an adult, her parents try to shield her from it rather than bring her in, so Rose struggles with what happened and how it affects her. Then there’s the boy at the video rental counter, an older boy, who has his own problems to deal with. Fortunately she has her friend Windy, whose name is very fitting her personality. She’s a little younger and a little immature but keeps her buoyed when life could weigh her down and reminds her to laugh.

There isn’t really an end, or a resolution. Things aren’t resolved in an episode, they aren’t wrapped up in a summer. But Rose learns a little, grows a little. To me, this rings true-such is life. At the end, Rose and Windy try to breathe in as much Asago air as possible, to hold onto that feeling a little longer before heading home. Despite all the angst, there are moments I remember trying to do the same.

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