One of the genres I’ve been trying to read a bit more of is contemporary adult fiction. As I get older, I gain appreciation for literature about characters living and struggling and loving in the world I’m (at least somewhat) familiar with. I’d heard great reviews about The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker, so when I saw the opportunity to read an advance copy, I took it. And while it might not be my favorite book of all time, I’m still glad I read it, since it was something different for me. Which is saying something, because I read a lot.
(From Goodreads) At a private East Coast college, two young women meet in art class. Sharon Kisses, quietly ambitious but self-doubting, arrives from rural Kentucky. Mel Vaught, brash, unapologetic, wildly gifted, brings her own brand of hellfire from the backwaters of Florida. Both outsiders, Sharon and Mel become fervent friends, bonding over underground comics and dysfunctional families. Working, absorbing, drinking. Drawing: Mel, to understand her own tumultuous past, and Sharon, to lose herself altogether. A decade later, Sharon and Mel are an award-winning animation duo, and with the release of their first full-length feature, a fearless look at Mel’s childhood, they stand at the cusp of success. But while on tour to promote the film, cracks in their relationship start to form: Sharon begins to feel like a tag-along and suspects that raucous Mel is the real artist. When unexpected tragedy strikes, long-buried resentments rise to the surface, threatening their partnership—and hastening a reckoning no one sees coming.
The Animators isn’t a bad book, but it also isn’t anything spectacular in my opinion. For me, it was decidedly average. There were things I liked and things I didn’t, but mostly, there were things I didn’t care much about either way. I had a lot of trouble connecting with the characters, which is unfortunate. I’m not quite sure if it’s because I’ve been struggling with a reading slump, or if I just wasn’t feeling them. Free-spirited characters are usually hit-or-miss for me though, because that’s just not my personality and it’s difficult for me to identify with them. I can completely understand how others would like these characters, though, so don’t let my reading experience put you off.
I thought it was interesting to read about artists and animators, because that’s not a world I experience much in literature. The fictional artists I can think of are usually alone in books – their fellow characters are usually non-artists – so I liked that most of the characters in this book (and all of the main characters) were artists. It was fun to read about, especially since Whitaker showed both success and struggle in that profession. I did also love that the characters included a bit of diversity. I wish there had been more (the main characters are all white), but I enjoyed reading about a lesbian character who was out in the artist community. It’s always great to read about LGBT characters who don’t encounter a lot of discrimination in their everyday lives.
One thing I did really enjoy about this book was the writing. It was vivid, but simplistic, which is my favorite kind of writing. I think it was well-matched with the story and characters. And it felt very real, which I liked a lot, particularly because the story was so character-driven.
As I said, The Animators was a pretty average book for me. I don’t think it was a bad book – in fact, I think it has the potential to be a great book for another reader – it just wasn’t the book for me.
If you’ve read this, let me know your thoughts! Did you enjoy it? Are there any books you’ve read that you just had trouble connecting with?
The Animators will be available starting tomorrow, January 31, from Random House. Get your copy here!
This book was provided to me by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.