Sunday, March 8, 2009

Skim- my thoughts

words by Mariko Tamaki
drawings by Jullian Tamaki

From the inside cover: Heartbreakingly funny, moving and vibrantly drawn, Skim is an extraordinary book - a smart and sensitive graphic novel of the highest literary and artistic quality, by and about young women. "Skim" is Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a not-slim, would-be Wiccan goth who goes to a private girls' school. When her classmate Katie Matthews is dumped by her boyfriend, who then kills himself, the entire school goes into mourning overdrive. As concerned guidance counselors provide lectures on the "cycle of grief," and the popular clique starts a new club (Girls Celebrate Life!) to bolster school spirit, Skim sinks into an ever-deepening depression. And falling in love only makes things worse.... Suicide, depression, love, being gay or not, crushes, cliques, and find a way to be your own fully human self-are explored in this brilliant collaboration by cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamako. An edgy, keenly observed and poignant glimpse into the heartache of being young.

I found myself really liking this graphic novel. The drawings are superb and the story is one that is still very applicable to today's teens. This book was first written in 1998 and I'm not sure that the graphic novel market was as huge as it is today, so I'm glad that this one has gotten the chance to be re-published and to be brought to a whole new market. Kim, aka Skim, is a pretty reserved girl who is really not comfortable in her own skin. She lives on the outskirts of the popular crowd and seems quite content with having her friend Lisa and her interest in Wicca. When a fellow student's boyfriend commits suicide she begins to think about what it means to be depressed and to maybe be gay. After this young man kills himself the counselor's at her school seem to target the goth crowd because they're dark and they (the adults) think are more susceptible to thoughts of suicide...all because of the way they look! I believe that is still true today. That's why the following passage really made an impact on me.
Mrs. Hornet said she's particularly concerned about people like me, because people like me are prone to depression and depressing stimuli.

Mrs. Hornet says students who are members of the "gothic" culture (i.e. ME) are very fragile.

Truthfully I am always a little depressed but that is just because I am sixteen and everyone is stupid (ha-ha-ha). I doubt it has anything to do with being a goth.

John Reddear was on the VOLLEYBALL TEAM, not a goth, and he KILLED HIMSELF!!!!

How come all the girls on the soccer team aren't in counseling?

p. 22

I agree with Skim....why weren't the other kids being counseled? Because they looked normal? They didn't dress in black or wear weird clothes? Kids, no matter what they look like, are capable of being depressed without anyone knowing they are...regardless of what they look like or whether they're jocks, geeks, goths, emo, gay, lesbian, get the picture.

The other part of this book that I enjoyed was Skim falling in love for the first time. Of course, this isn't your typical love affair...boy and girl, this is Skim falling in love with her English teacher, Ms. Archer. As she goes through this experience and the heartaches that come with first love, she's not able to tell anyone how she's feeling or to share this with her friend Lisa, because Lisa has decided to join the clique and be a part of the "popular club." At the end I loved how Skim thought we all carried the experiences of growing up....

Dear Diary,
I think there are a lot of ways to be marked.

If you are ugly, like Natasha Cake who has no eyebrows and doesn't wash her hair, then you are marked to be treated like crap for life.

I have eyebrows and wash but I think I am also marked to some degree (biologically) as a weirdo for life. (Mom says that there is nothing about my appearance that I don't contribute to with my habits.)

People can also mark you. Scott Bouffant marked me in grade nine with a disgusting hickey that didn't go away for a week.

Me= slut for a whole week.

(He never even called me afterwards because I wouldn't give him a handjob-BECAUSE I'D JUST MET HIM!!!!)

Lisa's mother got drunk once and told us that all relationships leave a scar. Lisa said her mother was talking about VD (=Venereal Disease- I had to look it up.) Lisa said you could have a VD and not even know it.

I think everything you do and everything people do to you leaves a mark, or at least if affects who you are.

pgs. 124-125

This book made me think a lot about my own experiences in high school and how hard life was as a teen....overall, a very interesting and enlightening read.


  1. The way people seem to assume all Goth are suicidal is just so annoying. I had my Goth phase in my teens and I had to deal with a lot of idiocy like that. And meanwhile, teens who could use some actual help are being completely ignored.

    Anyway...I'm getting this book soon!

  2. I am going to have to look into this book - it sounds really good, and I've been looking for some graphic novels for my classroom...thanks!

  3. This sounds like a very worthwhile book to read, Staci. It touches on important topics that apply to both adults and the younger crowd.

  4. To me is seems like a modern day Go Ask Alice. I was very sheltered in high school because I went to an all girls Catholic high school. I didn't have alot of the experiences that people had at public school. The biggest drama in the 4yrs was that one of the girls got pregnant and had an abortion.


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