STARRED REVIEW
February 2017

Navigating a shared creative life

By Kayla Rae Whitaker
When we first meet college freshman Sharon Kisses, she’s a shy, uneasy scholarship kid from Kentucky. But then she meets Mel Vaught in sketch class—and her world is blown wide open. Confident and unapologetic, Mel recognizes and encourages Sharon’s artistic talent in a way no one has before. Like Sharon, Mel has come from humble and broken beginnings, and together they channel their personal pain into art.
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When we first meet college freshman Sharon Kisses, she’s a shy, uneasy scholarship kid from Kentucky. But then she meets Mel Vaught in sketch class—and her world is blown wide open. Confident and unapologetic, Mel recognizes and encourages Sharon’s artistic talent in a way no one has before. Like Sharon, Mel has come from humble and broken beginnings, and together they channel their personal pain into art.

Ten years later, Mel and Sharon are finding success as working cartoonists. Their first animated feature film—based on Mel’s childhood—is getting a good deal of attention. But then Mel gets disturbing news from home, Sharon has a health crisis and their work is put on hold. Once Mel discovers something Sharon has been hiding from her for years, things get even more complicated.

The Animators is a big, sprawling novel about art, love, family and loss. Kayla Rae Whitaker writes breathlessly and beautifully about the power of deep, true friendship and the ways in which people—and friendships—change over the years. She tackles the big questions, creating a novel that manages to be both thoughtful and thought-provoking. And while the plot occasionally dips into minutiae and melodrama, Whitaker’s deft writing keeps the pages turning.

It’s rare to find a novel that so accurately explores the creative process and the hold art can have over those who create it and those who consume it. Mel and Sharon jump off the page as real, fully formed characters, and spending time with them is total treat from beginning to end.

 

This article was originally published in the February 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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The Animators

The Animators

By Kayla Rae Whitaker
Random House
ISBN 9780812989281

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