Page 45 Review by Stephen
Bathed in bilberry blues so beautiful that you could swim in them all summer, this is exquisitely drawn!
Rose is lithe and light, standing up straight, at the crossroads between girl and young adult. Her friend-since-five Windy is still enjoying a little puppy fat but has even more energy, dancing out beats across her living room floor - you could say she likes to parade. Windy subconsciously makes as much body contact as possible, although she is never clingy. Rose's mum shares her shape but you can tell that she's a little worn down: she's wan, removing her glasses and rubbing her eyes. Windy's mum looks nothing like her - it's no secret that Windy's adopted.
From the creators of SKIM, this is another of those heartfelt graphic novels perfect for Young Adults which will be relished and revered by those of us for whom family holidays are but a distant memory or seen from the other side of that vital generation gap. I'm reminded very much of LOST GIRL by Nabiel Kanan who illustrated our website, though this is much gentler for Rose is a little younger. It is not, however, without its tensions.
Awago is a remote coastal village so tiny it has only one store. Its beach isn't what you'd call crowded. Rose's outgoing dad drives them to Awago every year, waving embarrassingly to its youth as they arrive, while Windy's stooped grandmother hires a similar cottage for the three of them just down the road. It's perfect to have a playmate for summer.
The store is manned by a local lad around eighteen-years old. He's lanky, quite kindly (he called our Rose "blondie" and she liked it!) but distracted by his friends who have a tendency to hang out there too. Sarah's his girlfriend, it seems. One's a bit boisterous and crude. He called his girlfriend a slut as a joke.
"Oh my god those girls are sooo loud. I bet you they were drunk. They're, like, drunks. They're all like, WHOOAA!"
says Windy, acting out a big doolally wobble in front of Rose.
"And like, EEEEEEE! Noo!"
"They love screaming."
It's at this point that their mums arrive back at the cottage and Rose is instantly mortified and ashamed to have been overheard regurgitating that word. But that's what you do when you're young and impressionable, and an age group you don't yet understand acts up like that. It's a perfect piece of writing.
"Who's a slut?"
"Bit strange calling someone you don't even know a slut," says Windy's mum, eyebrows raised.
"Oh, well, these guys who knew these girls were calling them sluts," says Windy, tentatively, before reaching out to hug her mum for reconciliation.
"Well, how is that okay?"
It's a process Rose mimics on their way back home, clinging on to her Mum's elbow but she's rebuffed.
"Rose! Don't hang!"
Yes, there's definitely something raw bothering Rose's mum. Her dad can't seem to shift it.
That sequence is indicative not only of the quality of creativity shared by the Tamaki sisters who function fully as one, but also of the areas being explored: comprehension, communication, bodies and behaviour. More than once it feels a little dangerous. Also, our friends aren't immune to falling out. Windy has a habit of teasing her friend then attempting to negate it: "Just kidding!"
It doesn't negate it; it simply abandons responsibility for it. Conversely Rose, a little older, manages to embarrass Windy for "krunking" without inhibitions by laughing. Their friendship is resilient, though. They're quick to move on.
There are some glorious woodland and subaquatic landscapes as the girls explore a slightly seedy abandoned camp site - by which I mean a nocturnal fire and local drinking spot - and revel in their play. This is a book you can certainly judge by its cover.
What it won't prepare you for is the central tension between Rose's parents which threatens what was evidently a hitherto idyllic annual experience. It's quite specific and will be reflected in what happens around them this year.
I'd like to see this taught in schools. So many mistakes in childhood are made through lack of information, lack of empathy and in the realm of a deafening silence. Communication is all, and I can think of a dozen subjects raised by key moments here which would make for ideal classroom discussions.
Let me be clear: I would like to see this graphic novel used as an officially set text. How even is it that no graphic novel has been used in a national curriculum to this date? All education should be entertainment and this graphic novel will have young adults absorbed, meaning that they will engage more thoroughly with the subjects at hand but also with the key literary and visual skills used to furnish us with a graphic novel that should win every award under the sun.