Skim (Tomaki)

Skim - Mariko Tamaki, Jillian Tamaki

It's unlikely I ever would have picked up a graphic novel, particularly a young adult one, had it not appeared on my "CBC 100 novels that make you proud to be Canadian" list. The experience of reading this was not unpleasurable, but it was enough to confirm for me that I don't really like this form of storytelling very much, mainly because I am decidedly more of a verbal than a graphic learner, and I find the process of hunting through a picture for clues about context to the spoken words considerably more laborious than my well-established abilities to interpret verbal clues.


So, all that said, I found Skim an interesting enough character to keep me with her to the end of her teenage angst story, and there was (if I recall my now very distant adolescence) a fairly raw and realistic portrayal of the hyperdramatic emotional state in which a very young woman spends her schooldays. I am not sure that my generation generally experienced the heavy level of depression and confusion (including exposure to peer suicide) depicted here; maybe I was just in a lucky place and time. And I know for a fact that I was oblivious to any same-sex sexual experimentation that may have been going on around me, in a way that clearly is not possible now - and I'm presuming that's a good thing in general. Skim's sources of confusion are manifold - she's a Goth who tries to use supernatural ritual to find answers; she's racialized (Asian), although that doesn't seem to have a front row impact in this particular story; she's attracted to a female teacher; she's finding her way through the minefield of different friendships as she finds herself in or out of sympathy with the way those friends think. It's not a phase of life I willingly revisit, but I'll admit the pictures - once I had made myself put the effort in to interpret them - did an effective job of portraying it, and the progress of the story generally made sense.


I don't think I'm a snob about graphic novels; I think reading them effectively is a skill I exercise only tolerably well, and that's probably why (along with the teen subject matter), even though I read and enjoyed this, I'm unlikely to seek out more of the same.