Mariko Tamaki. Skim. California: Groundwood Books and House of Anansi Press 2008
Genre:Fiction, Coming of Age
Audience: 11th and 12th grade
Summary:Skim got her name in the book on the count of the fact that she’s not skim. Her best friend is Lisa. The two of them are very sarcastic characters and share no compassion for others. That is, until Skim starts to fall for her art teacher Ms. Archer. Skim couldn’t participate in gym class because she had broken her arm so she sat out and smoked a cigarette. One day, as she was doing her daily routine of sitting out and smoking, Ms. Archer came by. Skim tried to hide it but Ms. Archer said she’d let it pass. The two started talking and pretty soon they would meet every day at that time and enjoy each others company. We see them kiss. This is when we start to realize Skim has romantic feelings for her professor. Ms. Archer seems to return the affection at first but then something changes. She becomes way more distant and brushes off Skim’s affection. Skim falls in love with Ms. Archer. She starts turning mildly stalker-ish and just shows up at Ms. Archer’s house after her absences at school. Ms. Archer is confused because she never told Skim it was okay to come by or even told her where she lived. Well, before you know it Ms. Archer leaves the school. Skim is devastated and doesn’t understand why Ms. Archer won’t speak to her anymore and why she’s all of a sudden leaving. Skim and Lisa get into an argument over Skim’s affection for Ms. Archer and why Skim won’t talk about it. Eventually Skim and Lisa start to drift apart from each other. Skim finds a friend in Katie, who at the very beginning was broken up with by her boyfriend and then he committed suicide. Lisa starts to date a boy from another school. At the end we see the two forgive each other and talk about love. We see that Skim has let go of her first love, Ms. Archer.
Themes: Love is an obvious theme in this book. Skim falls in love with Ms. Archer whom we believe feels the same for Skim at first but then quickly backs off and leaves Skim to try and figure out her feelings on her own. Lisa falls in love with Sam, the boy from the other school. Katie was in love with John. Skim’s love, unfortunately, was not returned.
Sexuality was another theme throughout this graphic novel. Skim battles with her identity issues and tries to figure out why she feels love for another woman. She doesn’t feel like she can tell even her best friend because she feels like her emotions are wrong and that it’s wrong to love another woman. And people at school will not be kind about the matter. She doesn’t know how to act on her sexuality and emotions and doesn’t think anyone will understand. I believe there are many kids that feel this way in school.
Connections: This would perhaps pair well with Annie on my Mind because both deal with sexuality and love in the high school years and how hard it is to come out as a homosexual or bisexual. In my school, it was very hard for people to come out because the kids would destroy them emotionally or physically. It was hard to watch this happen in high school. Kids being punished for loving someone of the same sex.
Reactions: I did not like this book. If I wanted to teach about identity and sexuality issues in schools, I would rather teach about it using Annie on my Mind. I felt way more emotionally attached to the characters from that book, as opposed to the characters in Skim. I felt like the plot line was far more developed than that of Skim. Plus, I could not stand the ending of Skim. It left me with far more questions than answers. I didn’t feel like the story was complete and I couldn’t tell what the message was really supposed to be about. Frustrating is a good word for this book.
Reception: Judith Saltman seems to think otherwise of this book:
This writer also seems to see more in this book than I do