Book Review: Skim by Mariko Tamaki

Image result for skim mariko tamaki

Title: Skim

Author: Mariko Tamaki

Illustrator: Jillian Tamaki

Genre: YA Graphic Novel

Number of Pages: 143

Rating: B+

Recommended?: Yes



Growing up is hard, and Kim’s lonely slog between a home with her emotionally distant single mother and the crushing alienation of high school is no exception. Kim’s nickname ‘Skim’ is an ironic reference to her weight problem, and she and her only friend Lisa spend a lot of time poking contemptuous fun at their peers and hating everybody.


When a closeted boy at a local school commits suicide and his girlfriend becomes the target of lots of ostentatious and phony sympathy, Kim’s school jumps quickly into anti-suicide campaign mode and Kim starts feeling more alone than ever. Her friendship with Lisa is soon on the rocks and she develops an intense and distracting crush on her eccentric female teacher, Mrs. Archer.


One of the pleasures of this slim graphic novel is how unflinchingly real it’s protagonist feels. Kim is by turns vulnerable, conflicted, and flawed, and even when her misanthropy crosses the line into cruelty, I think it was easy to look beyond her behavior and see the good in her.


On the surface this might seem like a typical teen-angst drama but I think it actually does a terrific job at portraying what it’s like to be a young person who feels totally alone. I also really liked the illustrations, they were by a different artist than the one who did the pictures for the last book I read by this author (Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me) so the style was quite a bit different but both were high-quality, with expressive and distinct characters and backdrops that covey detail without feeling overly cluttered.


Kim’s identity as a lesbian is sensitively explored without becoming the sole focus of the character or the storyline, and her character arc is explored in a way that feels genuine for such a short book. Skim exceeded my expectations and furthered my interest in reading more graphic novels and further familiarizing myself with the genre. I am also definitely interested in exploring more of this author’s work, as she does a better job at portraying teen life than a lot of much longer novels by her YA peers.

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