Skim is a graphic novel by cousins Mariko Tamaki (words) and Jillian Tamaki (drawings) that tells the story of a high school girl living in Canada who goes by Skim, as she explains, because she is not. After a student commits suicide, the entire school goes into mourning overdrive, and Skim, a gothic girl who exists on the periphery of her school’s population, is only trying to navigate the changing landscape of her high school, her own life, and her friendships.
My first experience reading graphic novels was an extremely close reading of Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth for a literature class. Since then, I have been trying to make the case for graphic novels to people who have never read them, or don’t think they’re their “thing”. I now have a new weapon: Skim.
I finished Skim feeling so overwhelmed by how amazing it was. I would recommend Skim to anyone who is not sure they will enjoy reading graphic novels, because I believe it employs a unique subtlety. It is a graphic novel that relies on neither the pictures nor the words to carry the story; it is only with both mediums that you get the complete portrait of Skim and her classmates. There are full page drawings that are absolutely stunning, breaking up the more traditional boxed comic book look. Each picture is something to be savored, with lines that suggest movement and accompanying words that add a deeper layer to the story we are given. Every inch of every page is used purposefully and is visually stunning.
There is also the fact that Skim is a character that you don’t see in novels very often, neither in graphic novels nor in more traditional medium. She is an overweight, half-Japanese, gothic girl who falls in love with her female theater teacher. She questions her sexuality, her friendships, her family. It is easy to find something to relate to in Skim, whether it is her relationship with her mother or her best friend, or the way she is surprised by certain turns of events. It was simply refreshing to read a story that was not devastating, but neither did everything work out in the end. It was almost painfully realistic, but it was still the perfect escape.
This is a book that never underestimates what it means to be a teenager; it does not sugarcoat adolescence into what it is not – an ideal environment. It is messy and often confusing. It can be hurtful and it can be absolutely wonderful. Skim encompasses all of those things. There are many personal reasons why I love Skim so much, but I think it is a graphic novel that surprises and could potentially change perceptions about the genre. Along with Persepolis, for I see some of Marjane in Skim, this graphic novel pushes the boundaries of the medium. I absolutely loved it and highly recommend it.
I just had to include this picture from the Spanish-language edition! It says, “You know in some schools they send you jail for this type of thing.”
96% – Read it. Because you’ll love it, I promise.
Did I miss yours?