by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
"Skim" is Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a not-slim, would-be Wiccan goth who goes to a private girls' school in the early '90s. When her classmate Katie Matthews is dumped by her boyfriend, who then kills himself -- possibly because he's (maybe) gay -- the entire school goes into mourning overdrive. It's a weird time to fall in love, but that's what happens to Skim when she starts meeting secretly with her neo-hippie English teacher, Ms. Archer. But then Ms. Archer abruptly leaves the school, and Skim has to cope with her confusion and isolation while her best friend, Lisa, tries to pull her into "real" life by setting up a hilarious double-date for the school's semi formal. Suicide, depression, love, homosexuality, crushes, cliques of popular, manipulative peers -- the whole gamut of teen life is explored in this poignant glimpse into the heartache of being 16.
It's no secret that I've become a big fan of graphic novels this year, and while I love some of the series I've been reading - Rat Queens, American Vampire, Saga - every now and then I love to read a graphic novel that stands entirely on its own, like Jane, the Fox & Me, and now Skim.
I only became aware of Skim when I saw Mercedes @ MercysBookishMusings talking about it over on YouTube, and I was immediately intrigued. I trust her reviews - she's not afraid to call out bullshit! - so when I found a secondhand copy of Skim for a really cheap price I went ahead and bought it, and I'm glad I did.
At first glance Skim looks like a really angsty, depressing story about being a teenager. I mean, just look at that synopsis! But even though it dealt with a quite a few serious issues, it was still fun and relatable and, more than anything, incredibly honest. There's quite a bit of talk about suicide after a classmate's boyfriend kills himself, but, contrary to what all of the teachers believe, that doesn't make every student in the school want to commit suicide. They acknowledge it as a sad event, but also acknowledge that none of them really knew him, possibly not even his girlfriend, and get on with their lives.
What makes this graphic novel so honest is that it's told entirely through Skim's diary entries. Her thoughts are personal and teenage and real; I believed everything Skim wrote because she never sounded like an adult trying to sound like a teenager. She's never belittled or presented as melodramatic, and I really appreciated that.
When I first opened it I was a little disappointed to discover that the art is black and white, but it didn't bother me like I thought I would; after a while I forgot that had ever even been the minor issue that it was, and I ended up really enjoying the art style. No two people looked the same, there was a whole variation of body types, and I think the style and mood of the art fit the story perfectly.
So I really enjoyed this one, and I'd recommend it! I'd like to check out more of the Tamakis' work in future.