In my quest for graphic novel greatness, I have added everyone’s recommendations to a new list on Goodreads. I’ve searched lists from Panels. I’ve asked comic loving friends. I’ve researched on Tumblr. And now I have what I think is a fairly strong list to pull from when I am ready for new reading material.
First from that list, SKIM by Mariko Tamaki is our first review selection. Coincidentally, this is also the first black and white graphic novel I have read.
Kim, or “Skim” as her schoolmates not-so-affectionately call her, is learning to be Wiccan in cohorts with her very aggressive best friend, Lisa. Tragedy strikes the school when a classmate’s boyfriend kills himself, and Skim finds herself falling into a deep depression. Falling into love only makes things worse.
STORY: Starting with the story first this time, as it is where most of my feelings lay. It took me a bit to warm up to this one–and by a bit, until the end. This is a pretty toxic book, and Lisa is really the center of most of it. She is that kind of friend who preys on weaker birds in the worst ways–pecking at all of their insecurities and manipulating them to comply with her wants and needs. I am not totally convinced that Skim was comfortable with being a Wiccan (I do not have anything against it as a whole, but the situations they were in in the book were not safe or healthy for a teenager), but what Lisa wants, Lisa gets. She also mocked every single thing Skim felt or tried to do to feel healthy.
The other thing that concerned me was Skim’s relationship (if you want to call it that) with her teacher. Now, it was clear that Mrs. Archer knew she had screwed up and left school, but in her wake she left an extremely depressed, obsessed teenage victim.
The end left us with a promise of healing–a new friendship, Skim standing up for herself and Katie, Lisa moving on. But there was only a few pages of that, after 140 of pain and toxicity. I needed more from that ending.
ART: As I mentioned, there is no color in this book, only black and white, which at first was off-putting. The cover is bold orange and blue and yellow, so I didn’t realize the whole book wasn’t that way. However, due to the dark nature of the story, I color may have been misplaced here. As for the individual panels–they aren’t QUITE realistic, but more what a teenage girl would see in her insecure mind. Certain teachers are overly bloated. Lisa takes up a LOT of space, while Skim tends to melt into the background or sort of hide. She seems to be quite small emotionally, if not actually small physically. I could go on, but you get the generally idea.
Emotion is the key in this graphic novel. It’s not my favorite book, but it’s definitely…something. Be careful with it, ok? I’m going to give it 3 dragons. It’s worth reading, for sure.