What do you bet authors hate it when reviewers admit to not really digging their genre and then proceed to review their book anyway? "It was too, I dunno . . . graphic novel-ish. But other than that, I guess it was okay."
The thing is, though, I've read several graphic novels this year which exceeded my expectations. In fact, they raised the bar enough that I started to think maybe I do like graphic novels, after all, if they're the right kind: character-driven realistic fiction.
On the surface, Skim fits the bill: Author Mariko Tamaki and illustrator Jillian Tamaki (I love that they're cousins) portray a depressed Asian-Canadian teen's search for meaning and connection in her life in the aftermath of a friend's boyfriend's suicide. And, there are some great moments:
...Skim's attendance at her first Wicca meeting which turns out to be serving double duty as an AA meeting...
If I was taking someone to an AA group I would have mentioned that
...Skim's crush on her female hippie-esque English and Drama teacher, who encourages the attachment until it becomes innappopriate (aka, illegal), then shuts Skim out of her life without warning...
All the spells for bringing someone back to you need hair from the person
who has left. How are you supposed to get hair if the person
won't talk tois gone? Witchcraft=total crap.
So, why didn't I love this book?
Too graphic novel-ish.
Reading Skim felt like watching the previews for a movie that looks interesting enough on the surface to make you want to know more. But a novel needs to do more than touch on a series of interesting moments. It needs to tie them together with a thread that pulls the reader into the main character's world. I wanted to care about Skim and her teen angst, but I never quite got there before the book ended.
Plenty of people have, though, which is why Skim appeared on my list of Mock Printz Award titles, and is up for a Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature. You can learn more about the author on her website, Marikotamaki.com.
Soundtrack: Lovesong, by The Cure. Seems like the kind of thing Skim might've been listening to in 1994, when the story takes place.