In my experience few books get female adolescence right. I don't know why, but it's true. Skim is a welcome exception.
Author Mariko Tamaki and her si...moreIn my experience few books get female adolescence right. I don't know why, but it's true. Skim is a welcome exception.
Author Mariko Tamaki and her sister Jillian Tamaki, this graphic novel's illustrator, portray the confusion, banality, and loneliness of teenage girl years in a way that rang true for me.
Skim is a teenage girl so named because, as she points out, she isn't. Her best friend Lisa is something of a shit. We've all met her before -- she thinks she's clever and streetwise but really she's just like everyone else. Making her even less likable are her constant digs at Skim. The two girls are growing in different ways emotionally, and this appears to be Lisa's way of dealing with that realization.
Skim is developing new relationships, though. Surprising ones. She becomes friends with Katie, a girl from the popular crowd who becomes distant and depressed when her boyfriend commits suicide. Skim also has a pretty serious crush on a woman at school. This is one of my favorite parts of the book because it isn't about coming out or angsty confusion around her sexuality. I don't have anything against such story lines except that they have been done to death. It is nice to read a story where the same sex attraction is just there. Mariko Tamaki has done that really well and is thus free to convey something more interesting -- the confusion, self doubt, and frustration of an early (and taboo in a different way) relationship.
Maybe it is because I watched the entire run of My So-Called Life this summer, but that series and Tamaki's novel remind me a lot of one another. Both effectively illustrate how boring and commonplace a teenager's life can feel while also acknowledging the real complexity and pain that also exists. That isn't easy to do, and most people fail to capture them simultaneously. Both also do a really good job of capturing that feeling of difference that is so often a part of adolescence. Angela, from MSCL, and Skim aren't like the kids around them, and that is both wonderful and painful. (less)