Skim (2008)


Skim is Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a not-slim, would-be Wiccan goth stuck in a private girls’ school in Toronto. When a classmate’s boyfriend kills himself because he was rumoured to be gay, the school goes into mourning overdrive, each clique trying to find something to hold on to and something to believe in. It’s a weird time to fall in love, but that’s high school, and that’s what happens to Skim when she starts to meet in secret with her neo-hippie English teacher, Ms. Archer. But when Ms. Archer abruptly leaves, Skim struggles to cope with her confusion and isolation, armed with her trusty journal and a desire to shed old friendships while cautiously approaching new ones.

From: Anansi

Notes on This Title

Skim depicts a relationship between an adult and a minor, although not in an explicit manner.


2008 Governor General's Awards for Children's Literature - Nominee
2008 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Graphic Novel
2009 Doug Wright Award for Best Book
2009 CLA Young Adult Book of the Year Award - Nominee


Skim is, in my books at least, an undeniable queer YA classic at this point. Brought to life by the brilliant team of cousins Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, Skim is both the title of the book and the nickname of the main character, Kimberly Keiko Cameron. Kim is a teenage Wiccan goth with depression and a crush on her eccentric hippie English teacher Ms. Archer. When a student at Kim’s school dies by suicide, the whole school is talking about it. The popular girls are forming a “celebrate life” club and the guidance counsellors are trying to make everyone learn about the cycle of grief. Kim’s just trying to get by. This is a subtle and moving book that never simplifies the complex feelings and experiences of (queer) teens.” (Source: Autostraddle)

“Canadian essayist and adult-books author Tamaki and her cousin, an artist, dive into the graphic format by using high school as a fertile setting for pungent commentary on racial, cultural, and sexual issues. Pudgy Asian American Skim suffers the contempt of the popular crowd at her all-girl school and ponders the repercussions of the recent suicide of a local boy. The source of her greatest anguish, however, is her intense love for her drama teacher, Ms. Archer, an affection only briefly requited before the teacher leaves without explanation. The narrative, mainly in diary form, feels accurate and realistic, drenched in a sense of confusion and nihilism, and the art, influenced by Craig Thompson’s Blankets (2003), reflects the spare, gloomy emotional landscape in which Skim exists. This story will appeal to many female comics fans, though readers may, in the end, be slightly turned off by a resolution that awkwardly introduces some odd sunlight into the otherwise dark world.” (Source: Booklist, March 15, 2008, Vol.104(14), p.62(1))

“The black and white pictures by Jillian Tamaki create a nuanced, three-dimensional portrait of Skim, conveying a great deal of information often without the help of the text. The book’s most striking use of purely visual communication occurs in a lush and lovely double-page tableau of Skim and Ms. Archer exchanging a kiss in the woods that leaves the reader (and maybe even the participants) wondering who kissed whom. In another sequence, Skim and Ms. Archer sip tea without ever making eye contact, the pictures and minimal text communicating the uncomfortable emotional charge in the room and the two characters’ difficulty in knowing what to say to each other.” (Source: New York Times)

“This auspicious graphic novel debut by cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki tells the story of Skim aka Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a goth girl in an all-girls school in Toronto, circa the early ’90s. Skim is an articulate, angsty teenager, the classic outsider yearning for some form of acceptance. She begins a fanciful romance with her English teacher, Ms. Archer, while nursing her best friend through a period of mourning. The particulars of the story may not be its strong suit, though. It’s Jillian’s artwork that sets it apart from the coming-of-age pack. Jillian has a swooping, gorgeous pen line: expressive, vibrant and precise all at once. Her renderings of Skim and her friends, Skim alone or just the teenage environment in which the story is steeped are evocative and wondrous. Like Craig Thompson’s Blankets, the inky art lifts the story into a more poetic, elegiac realm. It complements Mariko’s fine ear for dialogue and the incidentals and events of adolescent life. Skim is an unusually strong graphic novel; in visuals and observations, and rewarding of repeated readings.” (Source: Publishers Weekly)


CWILA: “An Interview with Jillian and Mariko Tamaki”

Room: ”In Conversation with Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Tamaki”

Leave a Comment