Title: The Animators
Author: Kayla Rae Whitaker
Published: January 31st 2017 by Random House
Genre: Adult, Contemporary
In the male-dominated field of animation, Mel Vaught and Sharon Kisses are a dynamic duo, the friction of their differences driving them: Sharon, quietly ambitious but self-doubting; Mel, brash and unapologetic, always the life of the party. Best friends and artistic partners since the first week of college, where they bonded over their working-class roots and obvious talent, they spent their twenties ensconced in a gritty Brooklyn studio. Working, drinking, laughing. Drawing: Mel, to understand her tumultuous past, and Sharon, to lose herself altogether.
Now, after a decade of striving, the two are finally celebrating the release of their first full-length feature, which transforms Mel’s difficult childhood into a provocative and visually daring work of art. The toast of the indie film scene, they stand at the cusp of making it big. But with their success come doubt and destruction, cracks in their relationship threatening the delicate balance of their partnership. Sharon begins to feel expendable, suspecting that the ever-more raucous Mel is the real artist. During a trip to Sharon’s home state of Kentucky, the only other partner she has ever truly known—her troubled, charismatic childhood best friend, Teddy—reenters her life, and long-buried resentments rise to the surface, hastening a reckoning no one sees coming.
My Rating: 3/5 stars (Maybe 3.5?? I don’t know. This one’s hard to rate.)
Before I read The Animators, I came across karen‘s review of it on Goodreads, which made me immediately add it to my TBR. She likened this book to being the older sister of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, my favorite book of last year, so I was instantly intrigued. A month later, I read it. And I agree. But, for some reason, I believed this book was going to be Fangirl’s nice older sister: the kind that’s supportive and protecting. It is not. At all. There is no hand holding here. There are no comfortable spaces in this story. This book is the older sister of Fangirl who you can never get a good look at: she flits around the house, slamming doors and yelling at someone on her phone, constantly in motion. You know barely anything about her even though you’ve been to her house a million times. And also she kinda scares you.
What I’m trying to say through this weird scenario is: this book holds nothing back. For a book about two best friends working as an animation team, it’s extremely dark. Animators Sharon Kisses (AKA the main character with the best/worst name ever) and Mel Vaught are best friends and business partners who have just released their first cartoon. This book is essentially about how their life changes (drastically) after this movie’s release, and how Sharon evaluates her relationships: both past and present. Okay, I say ‘evaluate’ but that’s an understatement. She dissects them, basically. She takes the worst, most toxic parts of all her relationships and pokes at them and mixes them until they mutate into the ugly, gnarled beast that is this book.
Kayla Rae Whitaker has made sure there is no respite in her plot. There’s no comic relief character or any fluffy, filler scenes. It’s fast-paced and hard-hitting. It’s a roller coaster. There’s really no other way for me to describe it. This book is all sharp turns and hills and it doesn’t wait for you to catch your breath before it plummets further toward the ground.
This book takes all the insecurities and problems Sharon is struggling with and magnifies them by 1000. And let me tell you: it’s depressing. This is one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read. I’m not sure if it’s worthy of that title, but the entire time I was reading this book I fell into this intense melancholy that I couldn’t shake. Even at it’s happiest, I couldn’t feel anything during this book but sad. Which is where my main dislike lies. This is an amazing story, but I never want to read it again. There is no part of this story that I can look back on fondly. The situations were horrible, the arguments (which there were a lot of) were explosive and jarring, and certain characters’ hatred for one another was so intense that it bled into my enjoyment of reading about them. I don’t think I liked a single character. Although, I think this would make a great movie. I might just be saying that so I can see what all the drawings and cartoons described in this book look like. But still. I think the story would translate well. Especially since some of the most impactful parts of this book came from dialogue.
tl;dr: Do I recommend this book?? I have no idea. This book has beautiful writing (especially some of the dialogue) and sucks you in immediately, but the intense plot could easily overshadow those aspects for some people. If you can handle really gritty books, then I definitely recommend it. But maybe… don’t read it if you’re going through a rough patch.
I honestly can’t decide whether I liked this book or despised it. But one thing’s for sure: I will never be able to forget it.
Well, that was the most cliche sentence I have ever ended a review on. Did any of you guys read this?? I’m really interested to know if the plot made you as sad or uncomfortable as it made me. Let me know!