Skim by Mariko Tamaki
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I was wowed by this book. It subtly and sensitively deals with a girl’s coming of age and the struggle of closeted teens. We share the insights of growing up via the main character, nicknamed “Skim”. She wryly comments on her friend’s behaviour: “You can tell when Lisa’s nervous because she acts like I’m an idiot.” The book shows Skim negotiating her own sexuality and confusion, as well as dealing with fitting in. Her relationship with her English teacher, Ms. Archer, remains wonderfully ambiguous and provides lots of fodder for discussion.
After I finished reading Skim, I started to compare it to Bigfoot, a boy’s coming of age graphic novel. Both books take place in an insular and claustrophobic atmosphere: Skim in an all-girl’s Catholic school; Bigfoot in a small Quebec town. Both settings are a great metaphor for the dilemma of teenage-hood: Feeling chocked by the rules and expectations of the adult world, but still not quite prepared for the responsibilities of full adulthood. Skim is more subtle, dark and complex; Bigfoot is humourous and straightforward. I thought these two books would make interesting examples when examining books, reading and gender.
Both books contain mature content and coarse language. But both contain realistic dialogue and are compelling reads. I have less an issue with having Skim in my school library because of its subtleness.
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