Reading Pile: My Last Summer With Cass GN
As a big fan of Mark Crilley's Akiko I generally lean towards wanting to push all of his work. The trick is that he has a pretty wide range of genre content and alters his style throughout his projects, as can be sampled through his instructional youtube channel. So while you may love his indy comics series Akiko, you may or may not be compelled to check out his other projects such as Miki Falls, Brody's Ghost, or My Last Summer With Cass as it's more of a YA coming of age drama. If you are more inclined to check out YA drama pieces, then I would highly recommend checking this out as My Summer is a very engaging character centric story focusing on the themes of friendship, finding your identity and voice, and how to express yourself through artwork.
The book follows two friends from early childhood, Megan and Cass. Megan is the POV character but the book does a solid job of balancing their voices, offering up plenty of context for both of their lives and how their personalities develop. The book is split into three sections, the first dealing with their early childhood and the time they spent together as their families shared a cabin together every the summer.
The two get in trouble early on for drawing on the cabin walls, but are soon uplifted by the elderly owner's love of their artwork and her recommendation to their parents to get the girls enrolled in art classes.
As time goes on, life gets complicated and they start to deal with their various family issues. Part one ends with the last summer the girls spend together at the cabin.
Part two of the book is the chunky section, being roughly three times as long as the bookend chapters. This section focuses on the reunion between the two girls as Megan comes to New York during the summer to spend time with Cass. There's plenty of drama here as we're dealing with a number of sub-plots, such as Megan's conflicts with her father who wants her to follow in his footsteps, Cass' artistic developments and her struggles with coping with the impact of her fractured family, and more.
We get introduced to Cass' circle of friends and how they accept Megan into the fold, as well as the slow development of the conflicting personality types of Megan and Cass. Most of this is handled through Cass giving Megan a tour of the city and the range of reactions Megan has as she's overwhelmed with how different city life is and how Cass has not only acclimated but thrived in this setting.
This is where the pacing is a little off for me as part two also features the major climax of the story and then quickly fades off into part three, which is just as short as part one and features a three year time jump. I'm not entirely sure if I would have preferred if the entire book was expanded or if part two was trimmed a bit thinner, because I enjoy all of the character elements and moments throughout that entire section. In fact I would probably have preferred section two to be broken up into two parts and then expanded so that Cass' circle of friends could be better developed. As they stand they are mostly quirky padding to push the narrative of Megan's exposure to different perspectives, but I felt like they each could have contributed more to the plot or other theme developments. It just almost feels like the book was in a rush to end, although it does cleanly tie up the thematic messages of the story. Wishing for a book to last longer is generally a good problem to have though, so while the pacing seems odd to me it's not a deal breaker.
This is aimed more toward a younger readership of 14 and up as well, so the 256 page count is probably as beefy as it really needs to be so it doesn't overstay its welcome with young readers. So while I am more of a fan of Crilley's long form storytelling (I can't overstate how much I love Akiko, ok), this is a different beast for a different audience and I think it delivers exceptionally well.