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Graphic Medicine Novels: This One Summer

 This One Summer


This One Summer This One Summer


Bibliographic Record

 Title  This One Summer
 Author  Tamaki, Mariko
 Illustrator  Tamaki, Jillian
 Mental Illness  Depression
 Publication Date  2014
 Publisher  Roaring Brook Press
 ISBN  978-1596437746 
 # Pages  320
 Color Profile  Black & White
 Worldcat Link
 Amazon Link
 Annotator  Tina L. Hefty


This One Summer is exactly as the cover suggests: a snapshot of two girls on summer vacation. Friends Rose and Windy have been coming to Awago Beach for the summer for as far back as they can remember. Like previous summers, the girls spend time swimming, watching movies, eating candy, and just being silly. But this summer is particularly eventful for the girls. Rose develops a crush on an older boy who runs a grocery stand—later that same boy is accused of impregnating a young woman, then refusing to take responsibility. As Rose and Windy observe the fighting between the teen couple, a conflict exists at Rose’s home, as well. Her parents are constantly fighting. Her father wants her mother to loosen up and have fun, but for whatever reason, her mother wants to keep to herself. It is later revealed that Rose’s mother is suffering from severe depression as a result of a miscarriage that occurred at Awago Beach. The summer abruptly ends and Rose’s family goes home.


This One Summer has received a number of awards, and it’s not without reason. The artwork is truly stunning, as Tamaki creates something of a nostalgia-inducing dreamscape. Meanwhile, the dark wash used for shading also brings about feelings of gloom. The text is primarily applied to conversation, although we do get to periodically read Rose's thoughts.

Mental Illness Narrative

Throughout the book, it is evident that Rose’s mother is experiencing a severe depressive episode. Although we never really get to see inside her head, detailed body language and facial expressions illustrate a woman experiencing tremendous emotional pain. On a behavior level, she expresses agitation and irritability, often illustrated through the arguments with her husband. While it’s never indicated she has lost weight recently, she is definitely thin. Loss of interest in activities is evident, as she avoids partaking in the family fun. She also isolates herself, even to the point of locking herself in her bedroom. As a result, her daughter is left alone, at one point asking the closed door if there will be dinner that night.

Humanistic Revelations

At the end of the book, it is revealed that Rose’s mother’s depression stems from a miscarriage that occurred in the water at Awago Beach. Apart from her husband, no one else knows. She keeps the trauma well-hidden, in part due to thinking that others, especially her daughter, wouldn’t understand. Because no one else knows the root cause, they interpret her behavior as callous. She is repeatedly asked why she won’t participate in fun activities. At one point, her daughter yells, “You don’t even WANT to be happy” (p. 229). Through her body language, we can see how painful it is to be taunted in this way.

One of the ways that Rose’s mother tries to manage her depression is by staying busy. She obsessively tends to the house in an attempt to keep mind preoccupied. This is probably relatable to many other individuals who have depression who likewise attempt to drown out their pain with activity. It also explains why some people who suffer from depression still manage to maintain responsibilities.


As a young adult title, This One Summer has plenty of appeal for younger readers.  It should be noted, though, that the book touches on several adult themes and contains quite a bit of adult language.  It remains a gorgeous portrait of childhood, however, while expertly illustrating depression caused by a traumatic loss.

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