There are many things to like about Skim, by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki.
Right from the start, I was intrigued. The book is hardcover, larger than I expected, with a decidedly “classical” Japanese face on the cover, reminiscent of Heian art. A face with heavy cheeks, high, plucked eyebrows and a small, shapely mouth. And, when I opened the covers, this is indeed what our heroine looks like. A classic Japanese face. If she had ever smiled, I’m sure I’d have been surprised if her teeth weren’t blacked out. ^_^
The story is constructed as a series of diary entries, which gave it the feel of a pillow book, and just added to the classical ambiance.
The art is not manga-style. It’s not really American comics either. There’s a distinct style to it, informed by both Japanese and western art, but it’s completely it’s own thing. I liked it quite a bit.
Kim, known as “Skim,” is 16, a Wiccan-in-training, and Gothic, but not at all Goth. She’s a smart girl, perceptive and incredibly down to earth, surrounded by adults who think they understand what it’s like to be 16 (is there *anything* more galling?), friends who haven’t the vaguest clue what she’s really like or what is really important to her and peers who, well they aren’t her peers, anyway.
She’s romantic, realistic, full of hope and hopelessness, and everything else a real person is. She might also be gay, but it’s kind of hard for either her or us to know at this point.
Above all, Kim is someone that not only would I have over for lunch, I’d have her over again and again, until she got past 16 and was allowed to be human.
Then there’s the bitter humor of a person smarter than most of the folks around her. She’s taken to a Wiccan coven that also turns out to be a AA meeting. Both the wife and I thought that was hysterical. (Our Druid grove isn’t an AA group, but it is awfully like attending a meeting for Adult Children of Co-Dependents Anonymous, or something equally as sad.) Her response when her friend Lisa fills her in – after the fact – about it being an AA meeting, “You think you’d tell someone that beforehand.” She’s just sayin’.
When Kim falls for her teacher there’s nothing at all icky about it. The teacher isn’t really abusing her position, Kim isn’t making a bad choice. It’s an honest attraction that, in two more years, wouldn’t be that much of an issue at all. Kim isn’t quite sure what to think, while it’s quite obvious that the teacher’s feelings are serious enough that she ends up having to make hard decisions. I thought the whole love thing was handled beautifully. (I’d like to say more about it but I don’t want to spoil anything. Just – it was nice. And mature, the wife says.)
In fact, I thought the whole book was handled beautifully. I finished reading it and handed it to the wife – which I NEVER do, because she and I like completely different things. She read it and amazingly, she liked it as much as I did. (I know that that will meaning nothing to those of you who haven’t met her, but those of you who have, will understand how significant that is. ^_^)
To sum up, for character, for the story, for the art and for a realistic, but not at all angsty look at teenage angst, I really cannot recommend Skim enough.
Art – 8
Story – 9
Characters – 9
Yuri – 5
Service – 0
Overall – 9
Speaking of “top ten” candidates…..