Skim is a graphic novel written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki in 2008.  The story follows Skim through her sophomore year in high school as she faces death, love and loss, and depression.  Skim is a well-written character, and the story that the Tamakis tell portrays Skim in a number of situations that reveal her as a typical in-the-closet, adolescent lesbian.  The central theme throughout the novel is the isolation that accompanies an adolescent who is coming to terms with their non-heterosexual identity.  While Skim’s witty and non-dramatic, sarcastic narration prevents even a reader who traveled a similar journey from becoming deeply saddened at a version of her personal history, the ending of the novel is shockingly accurate in predicting the lonely journey that lies ahead for Skim.

Skim’s adolescence is one frequently portrayed in novels and in movies.  She dabbles with Wicca, approaches everything with a layer of cynicism, and struggles with the isolating and catty nature of female cliques.  She has one close friend, Lisa, whose story provides an opportunity to analyze the differences between an angsty, heterosexual adolescent and an angsty, non-heterosexual adolescent.  Skim and Lisa are both sophomores in an all-girls, private school.  The story begins with Skim and Lisa scoffing at girls who show off their relationships, commenting on its seemingly superficial nature.  When a classmate’s boyfriend commits suicide, however, the girls’ paths begin to diverge.  Skim is singled out by the school’s guidance counselor who believes that goths are more prone to be devastatingly affected by death.  After this session, Skim retires to a ravine on school property that she frequents to avoid class and her classmates, but this time she’s followed by her English teacher, Miss Archer.  The two begin a relationship, and frequently retreat to the ravine to be together.  Skim tells no one of this relationship, and her friendship with Lisa suffers.  When her relationship with Miss Archer comes to an abrupt end, Skim has no one to turn to for support, as Lisa has begun hanging out with the girls that she and Skim used to mock together.

As Skim becomes more and more isolated and disconnected from the community around her, Katie, the classmate whose boyfriend committed suicide, shows up at school with two broken arms.  Rumors circulate that she attempted suicide.  Skim, who also has a broken arm, ends up getting to know Katie during the time in which they don’t have to go to gym class.  When Skim defends Katie from her former friends’ attempts at guilting her into being cheerful and appreciating life, the two begin spending time together after school.

In the last scenes of the novel, Lisa and Skim run into each other.  Lisa tells Skim all about her new boyfriend, Sam, and her firm belief that love changes everything.  Skim only offers a small smile in return.  As Lisa runs off to meet Sam, Skim walks to the ravine.  The last page of the graphic novel is of a girl with her back to the reader sitting in the ravine.  The girl is wearing a beret, allowing the reader to recognize that it is Katie.

Rather than telling Lisa of her relationship with Katie, Skim keeps this information to herself.  Where Lisa can wear Sam’s jacket to class, Skim keeps her relationship secret, falling into the same pattern of guarded secrecy she used when she was with Miss Archer.  The angst of adolescence can disappear, and Skim will most likely graduate from high school and leave an environment that forces social interaction.  But unless her sexual preference for women is a phase, the habits Skim formed with her first relationship will permeate the rest of her relationships, as the disconnection from the community that Skim feels throughout the novel becomes self-imposed isolation.

Lesbian character: 5 stars

Overall story: 5 stars

Ending: 4 stars

~ Katy & Stacy


~ by thornfieldrose on April 9, 2012.

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