Wednesday, October 8, 2014

YALSA top ten GNs 2009: Skim

Written by Mariko Tamaki. Illustrated by Jillian Tamaki.
Published by Groundwood Books (2008)

When I originally read Skim months ago I really didn't think it was very good. It definitely got better near the end, but overall I didn't really get why people liked it so much (or rather, even if I did, it didn't appeal to me personally). Reading it a second time, and feeling much more depressed overall (school...), I definitely found it more appealing, though I felt it did have a lot of the same problems I found my first time through.

But first, Skim is a book about some kind-of-outcast kids in an all-girls high school in Ontario in the early '90s. They read about Wicca, are kind of goth, and when a boy who was dating someone in the school kills themselves everyone gets worried about them (because of course the kind of depressed goths are going to kill themselves). We follow Skim, the main character, as she interacts with her teachers, family, and classmates, and grows further away from some people and towards others.

My biggest problem is the creepy relationship that happens between a student and a teacher. Yeah, it's fiction, yeah not everything has to be spelled out, but I still think this is a super creepy thing and other than one of the characters moping a bunch it's not really dealt with. People write about stuff that doesn't happen I know, and being overly preachy can be pretty terrible, but still, it made me kind of uncomfortable.

Anyway, once that's out of the way the story becomes a lot more appealing to me. A popular girl who fell off her roof and broke both her arms (while attempting suicide?) is constantly surrounded by other girls who try to make a thing out of it by having clubs and dances and stuff that are supposed to be about how great life is. The girl seems to become more and more distressed and Skim manages to create some sort of connection between them. This was the best part of the book, as the other character, who'd been dismissed previously, is shown to have a personality. I kind of wish that the entire book had been about them coming to terms with themselves and who their friends actually are, as despite these scenes we didn't really get a full picture of them. Oh well.

So yeah, a lot of people loved this, I thought it was okay. But really, it's about emotions and family and teenagers and there's not a single robot and nobody travels through time, so  I'm not even surprised it didn't do that much for me. (Also the art, which many people enjoyed a lot, evidently wasn't my thing as I don't really remember it, but that doesn't mean it was bad!)

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