graphic novels


V.25 No.2 | 01/14/2016

comics

Skim

The graphic novel by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

I spent a lot of this weekend up before dawn with a pair of binoculars banging against the zipper of the embarrassingly large jacket my mom bought for me one Christmas. Birdwatching, yes, the sport of the elderly, really took a toll on me.

So I spent my Sunday evening finally digging into Mariko and Jillian Tamaki's graphic novel, Skim, which has been on my shortlist of "to reads" for some time. Mariko handled text for this goth, Wiccan coming-of-age tale, while her cousin, Jillian, covered the illustration in fine black ink. The story is about Kimberly Keiko Cameron AKA "Skim," called so because she's not.

In a relatively concise number of pages Skim deals with the suicide of a classmate, very much on her periphery, whose death has a ripple effect through the school. In addition, she attends her first coven gathering/AA meeting, falls in love (and makes out with!) her quirky English teacher, and drifts apart from her best friend.

One might think this amount of action would make it seem as if no one story gets rendered completely, but on the contrary, each functions well as a part of the larger story. That is, the story of a thoughtful, serious young woman navigating life's difficulties for the first time.

In addition to deft dialogue and excellent pacing, Jillian Tamaki's illustrations are spot-on, illuminating the story in indispensable ways.

I'm late to this party. The book was published in 2009, but the fourth edition of the paperback just came out in 2015. There's not enough good things to say about this story of an outcast surviving high school at its most treacherous.