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Summer Blonde

2 Ratings: 4.5
A Graphic Novel

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Author: Adrian Tomine
Genre: Graphic Novel
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
1 review about Summer Blonde

Summer Blonde Actually Makes Me Think

  • Mar 12, 2008
  • by
Pros: Awkward, painful characters and stories

Cons: I'm waiting for more

The Bottom Line: Adrian Tomine is my new artist to watch for. These odd stories and characters has me itching for more!

I recently selected a handful of random graphic novels to get through interlibrary loan after reading several reviews of different authors, illustrators, and titles. One author I came across a few times was Californian Adrian Tomine, and his book Summer Blonde caught my eye the most so I decided to request it. A few days later it arrived, and when I got home from work I decided to read flip through it. Flipping turned into reading through until the last page, and before long I had finished the entire book without stopping. It was fantastic!

Actually, I fibbed just a little. When I first pulled this book out of it's bag I read the first page of the first story, Alter Ego. The main character Martin is pictured and described and from the first frames he seemed boring to be blunt. But I'm not lying when I say I read the book cover to cover once I got home. Alter Ego's Martin, a new author does in fact lead in a story where he isn't Mr. Popular or Successful. He thinks an old crush may have tried to contact him, and in his search for her he enters into an odd relationship with her sister. Martin isn't sure what he wants anymore, and while the situation is unique and strange, I felt for him intensely up to the last and sudden frame of his story. The book's title story, Summer Blonde comes next, and the main character is an odd man with some obvious psychological issues. The man, Neil clearly has strong feelings for the troubled girl who is two-timing Neil's new neighbor Carlos. There are several relationships that occur and twist between the various characters in this story, but the person you feel most strongly for is Neil. While its clear he cares for the "summer blonde," creepy (but relatable) Neil just seems to cause problems for the girl. Hawaiian Getaway features young, Asian, recently fired Hillary. Hillary's life isn't going so great, and she's basically a failure in her mother's eyes. When she prank calls the payphone below her apartment the tables are turned- she gets to be the boss and make other people feel depressed and miserable. Hillary is obviously lonely; she finally makes a connection with someone and things seem like they may look up for her, but nothing could be as good as her daydream of winning a radio show's Hawaiian getaway sweepstakes. Bomb Scare focuses on a teenage boy named Scotty. Scotty's friendship with Alex has him being teased and called a fa.g for no clear reason. His coworker Cammie is a partier, and to everyone else's amusement she gets so drunk she unconsciously poops her pants. Scotty and Cammie relate to each other through their high school traumas from different ends of the social spectrum, and develop one of those weird high school relationships we all suffer (and learn) through.

Adrian Tomine has written a small collection of mini-masterpieces in Summer Blonde. Each of the four stories featured characters that seemed incredibly normal- any of them could have been me, and I'm both amused and embarassed to see the similarities I had with each of these characters. I can remember a few events similar to Scotty's high school horrors that had me red-faced and wishing I could turn back time. I also really felt for Neil; while he was definitely the cause of several problems, and incredibly socially awkward I really could picture myself in some of the situations he got into. Neil was the character you never want to be like, and his story was scarily real. The characters are startlingly normal with their oddities and quirks, and so relatable that I found myself in their shoes, in their stories, in their minds.

Add to the strange stories Tomine's one-of-a-kind artwork and there's no question why I couldn't put this book down. Adrian Tomine not only created characters with familiar personas, he's illustrated them to be as average and as flawed as you or me. His characters carry the most bizarre and entertaining expressions its easy to feel their pain but still find their stories humorous from their appearances. Tomine's art is minimal and allows the importance of the written story to shine through while still being good illustrations.

I enjoyed this book from start to finish, though it included some foul language, nudity, and drug use. These things may offend some readers.

Adrian Tomine has surpassed my expectations with Summer Blonde. His four stories star characters that make mistakes and have awkward moments; people that could be you or me. Their situations are painfully honest and I was left after the stories' endings feeling like I was about to fall off a cliff. I can't wait to read more; Adrian Tomine is my new artist to watch for.

This is a book I interlibrary loaned for myself. I am the interlibrary loan librarian at my public library, and in taking requests for materials our library doesn't own for people in my community I've been exposed to a variety of interests and titles I may not otherwise have seen. Using interlibrary loan, I've been able to obtain all kinds of books, this being one of them. And I didn't spend a dime! Join me in celebrating the importance of libraries by participating in my National Library Week Write-Off.


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