I don’t read a lot of graphic novels. I’m a word person not a particularly visual one, so I feel I don’t always get the best out of a graphic novel as I’m scanning the words not the images. However, even with my limited appreciation, I found this to be a truly evocative portrait of a girl growing up and moving into an adolescence that she is half attracted to and half appalled by.
Since she was five, Rose and her parents have been going to Awago Beach every summer. Now Rose is on the borders between childhood and young adulthood, and during this one summer she wavers between the two.
Her summer friend, Windy, is a year and a half younger and is still a child – brilliantly illustrated with all the comforting roundness of childhood compared to Rose’s twiggy adolescence. Rose is torn between building forts on the beach and peeking in at the teens hanging out at Brewster’s, the local store. On the one hand she and Windy work their way through Brewster’s oeuvre of horror movies, and discuss their latent breasts, on the other they collect rocks and ride their bikes.
Meanwhile all is not well between Rose’s parents and for the first time, Rose is not behind the protective obliviousness of childhood, and she now observes them with the self-centredness of a teen. The blue washed illustrations capture the thoughts behind the faces of the characters and the nuances of Rose’s tentative first steps into adulthood. Her crush on Dunc at Brewster’s, and his patent regard of her as a kid, ring painfully true.
The many images of the stars and the ocean serve as a reminder of the smallness of human concerns, but, of course, each character is immersed in his or her own experience. As the summer drifts to its end, no false conclusions are reached and no fake closure is made – instead life carries on, just as it does in reality.