Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a part-Asian pseudo-Wiccan- maybe-Goth high school student also known as Skim, has issues. Stuck in an all-girls private school with only one friend and a penchant for cheap cigarettes, she falls in love with her English teacher Ms. Archer. Whilst her classmates are swooped up in the throes of a popular girl’s ex-boyfriend’s untimely suicide, Skim passes the time with a series of introspective diary entries, Wiccan circles, and tarot card readings. This book outlines Skim’s redefinition of life. Filled with the usual teenage angst, this graphic novel written and illustrated by cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, is set apart by the poignant illustrations that draw you into the characters and their struggles in an intimate fashion.
Although there is plenty of action with the plot, each luxurious panel looks like a Japanese Sumi-e painting and conveys emotionally and visually the barren nature of one isolated student’s existence. The main thing that detracted from the sheer splendor of each page was the hokey font which attempted to look like bad female handwriting, but ended up just looking cheesy. Also, the use of internal monologue via journal entries definitely does not suit the mature drawings, although it does suit the character’s voice. The narrative is written in a delicious Gossip Girl style, making it a definite festival of guilty pleasures supplemented by beautiful art. All of this combined exemplifies the protagonist’s lofty and pure teenage angst.
“Skim” touches on themes such as the idea of being distinctly shunned from the ‘popular’ group, homosexuality in its various forms (but in a refreshingly un-dramatic fashion), how one is judged and judges others, and finally, experimentation as a teenager. The winning point of this book is how Skim observes the world from an outsider’s perspective and frankly does not give a darn about being unpopular. She just lives life how she wants to on the outskirts of society, and in the meantime discovers things about herself. I would highly recommend this book to the often marginalized population of misunderstood girls out there who don’t exactly fit in and don’t particularly enjoy regular crappy “teen” lit want to read a beautiful tale of one girl’s experience coping with the ridiculous and lonely nature of high school.
“Skim” by Mariko Tamaki. Illustration by Jillian Tamaki. Groundwood Books, 2008.