And I’m so glad that I did.
Skim is the nickname of Kimberly, a bi-racial Canadian student in grade 10 who is one of the outsiders at school. She’s a practicing Wiccan, she only really has one close friend (and that has a lot of tension), and she exists in a low-grade depression that colors her experiences at school.
Most graphic novels are all about the action. That’s why I love them. There’s stuff happening. There’s stuff to look at. The dialogue is punchy. That’s what makes the form work.
But there’s none of that here. Instead, Tamaki has imbued Skim’s year in a mass of subtext and journal entries that let us into her head. While the story is ostensibly about her reaction to a high school in mourning after a popular girl’s boyfriend kills himself, it’s really about a lot more than that. It’s about Skim having a crush on a teacher who moves away unexpectedly. It’s abut the suicide maybe having happened because the volleyball player was gay, though maybe not. It’s about Skim falling away from her friends and gaining a new friend but really being isolated and only sort of okay with that.
It’s a quiet story. I don’t even know if that makes any sense, but I know that it’s absolutely true. It reminded me a lot of being in high school. The feeling of being surrounded by people and not really having anything terribly wrong to bring you down but still feeling suffocated and depressed. But it keeps going and some days are better than others and some are worse, and you keep going. The story ends with the popular girl moving on from the suicide, but it doesn’t feel like the story’s over. Because while the story was about the suicide, it was always about Skim and far more than that. But there’s nowhere to properly end a story of a life except by just walking away.
But it’s not a downer. I know it sounds heavy, and it sort of is, but there are such quirky and fun moments. The Wicca circle that’s also an AA meeting. Skim covering her Wicca altar in glitter and then having to spend two hours getting it off because it looked lame. The popular girl scratching the daisies off her cast because she hates their oppressive happiness. It balances nicely, and it’s packed tight in this less than 150 page story.
Oh, and Skim totally agrees with me about Romeo and Juliet: didn’t like it. Greatest love story ever told? Puh-lease.
I know this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but for my headspace and where my heart is right now, this was absolutely divine. If you’ve never read this, give it a shot.
JMF Rating: 8/10
‘Til next time,