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Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

Mariko and Jillian Tamaki
Skim, a collaboration between cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, is not the first coming-of-age graphic novel, but it’s one of the best, ranking up there with Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis as a spot-on telling of teenage angst and a reminder of why you wouldn’t go back for a million bucks. Told in three parts, Skim is set in pre-internet 1993, following the diary of “Skim” Kimberley Keiko Cameron, a not-slim, 16-year-old wannabe Wiccan who attends a private girls’ school. When a classmate’s rumoured-to-be-gay ex-boyfriend commits suicide, Skim observes from her outsider position her school’s social hypocrisy, panicked counsellors and the popular girls’ rallies for school spirit. (The “Girls Celebrate Life! Club” hosts a screening of Dead Poet’s Society. Hilarious.) Skim has her own problems: a crush on the hippie English teacher Ms. Archer leads to a kiss and then to Ms. Archer’s disappearance and Skim’s despair. There’s an organic relationship between Mariko’s words and Jillian’s beautiful monochromatic drawings, as Skim shuffles through scenes with her hoodie on and head down. Suburban streets and forests are drawn as cozy or confining, depending on Skim’s mood, and the school gym echoes a torture chamber. This is heartbreak at its best.
Sue Carter Flinn
type: graphic novel

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Vol 25, No 21
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