Banned Books Week 2017: This One Summer

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki

Title: This One Summer
Author: Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
Challenged in: Henning, Minnesota; Seminole County, Florida
Because: includes LGBT characters, sexually explicit with mature themes, drug use, profanity

I really liked this graphic novel the first time I read it in 2015, when I gave it five stars. Here’s what I wrote about it in my 2015: The Good post:

This was a graphic novel about a girl teetering between child and adult and her summer at her parents’ beach cabin, where they go every year. It’s really telling how her interactions with their normal family traditions and friends are changing as she grows up. Plus the art style was pretty.

Since then, it’s won a Printz award and a Caldecott Honor. I think the Caldecott is where it’s gotten into trouble, because those things are usually dished out to picture books since it’s an award primarily based on illustrations. But, surprise! This book is made of illustrations, so it is completely eligible and totally deserving of any award. But inattentive parents and librarians have really gotten used to Caldecott=great for my 6-year-old, and this book is not for that age group. The main character is 13, and the story so perfectly captures how it feels to be 13. Things she used to enjoy as a kid seem stupid, but adult conversations are boring and/or frightening. Sometimes you just want to dance around your living room eating marshmallows. Other times you want to prove your maturity by watching the scariest movie possible. And, of course, older teens hold an inherent fascination. The main character and her best friend spend a lot of the summer spying on them, which is where a lot of the “inappropriate content” comes in. One of the older girls is dealing with an unwanted pregnancy.

Graphic novels seem to get challenged at a higher rate because it’s one thing to read about something and picture it in your imagination; it’s another to see a picture of it when you’re just glancing through. But, with this book, nothing graphic at all is ever shown, only discussed. This book’s detractors seem to think that 13-year-olds don’t know what sex is or are too young to know about pregnancy and suicide, as if keeping these issues secret will make them go away. But they’re not secret, and the more they’re talked about the less likely they are to happen. As to the other charges:

LGBT character: one of the girls has a lesbian aunt omfg call the police
Drug use: some sketchy teens smoke behind the convenience store; mom and dad drink wine, call the 18th amendment
Profanity: your 13-year-old knows the word Fuck. Come the fuck on.

Previously: Drama
Next: George

One response to “Banned Books Week 2017: This One Summer”

  1. It makes too much sense that the reason graphic novels are challenged at a higher rate would be that the milquetoast parents who would challenge a title this inoffensive are also statistically too lazy to bother prereading the noncomic books their kids are reading

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