Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

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Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Teen graphic novel that skillfully evokes the raw, painful experience of feeling like a social mis-fit at school and falling in love for the first time.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 144 Date: May 2009
Publisher: Walker
ISBN: 978-1406321364

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Skim is a slightly overweight, goth, witch-wannabe teenage girl going to an all girls High School in Toronto in the 1990's. The book takes the form of her diary entries, painfully honest, and very realistic with words crossed out and re-written at times. We see her tortured teen life and how she faces issues of suicide, depression, first love and being something of a mis-fit amongst the usual school cliques. We meet her initially trying out being a witch, and beginning a strange, secretive relationship with her hippy art teacher, Miss Archer. Then, after the suicide of the ex-boyfriend of one of the girls at Skim's school, those in charge at the school go on an overdrive of moral-boosting, supportive exercises to help all the girls cope. This coincides with Miss Archer leaving the school, which drops Skim into a morbid depression, isolating her even further from those in her class.

This is certainly no light and fluffy teen chick lit novel. It deals with some mature themes, and I found much of the artwork itself very unsettling. I expect this was intentional. People's faces seem exaggerated and ugly and I felt jolted back into one of my teenage moods through the depiction of the darkness of Skim's moods. The images in the book are all black and white, yet go through so many shades of grey, and are so cleverly done, that they evoke a whole gamut of emotions. Some of the double page spreads are beautiful, with swirling, flowing lines that feel charged with emotion.

I haven't read a novel like this before and found it quite an unusual, and at times disconcerting, experience. With so little text, what's there has to work doubly hard to ensure you're following the story. Here the dialogue is well done, cynical and bitchy, like real teenagers, and the artwork does more than simply back the storyline - it carries you along and sparks your imagination, so that your mind fills in the gaps between the words. Graphic novels can often be whizzed through quickly without much thought, but if you take your time and soak in the atmosphere that the images create it can be a much more intense experience. This is definitely one for an older teen, but concerned parents will be pleased to learn that it does end on a somewhat positive note.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Younger readers might prefer to try something lighter, perhaps Manga like Strawberry Marshmallow or something for everyone with Neil Gaiman's The Dangerous Alphabet

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Buy Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki at


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