The Animators is a novel about relationships--relationships with your friends, with your family, with the art you create, with yourself--and the amount of work that goes into maintaining each one.
Sharon Kisses, the protagonist, is at odds with herself at the outset of the novel. A freshman in college, she's quiet and reserved, the direct opposite of Mel Vaught, a girl in her classes who quickly becomes her best friend and creative partner. Ten years after the two first meet, she and Mel are on the heels of the success of their first full-length animated film. The film, largely based on Mel's less-than-optimal childhood, catapults the cartoonists to success; they've won a prestigious 300,000 grant to use on their next project. As the pair tours their first movie and struggles creatively with their latest, Sharon is forced to man the reigns while Mel indulges on drinks, drugs and women. It's not until Sharon is hospitalized and the pair are stuck in Florida, that their roles are reversed. With responsibility thrust onto her, Mel takes charge of Sharon's recovery, and it isn't until then that they begin to think creatively again. Slowly but surely, a new project emerges, and this time, Sharon's past is the one projected onto the big screen; but as their film comes together, their vices manifest once more.
Kayla Rae Whitaker's debut novel is a captivating work of fiction of that grapples with the complexity of friendships and family. Sharon and Mel are layered, three-dimensional characters; they struggle as they use their art to overcome their pasts, but ultimately, they learn that some things will always linger hauntingly. Whitaker's prose is captivating; her descriptions vivid and complex, creating scenes that play much like the movies that Sharon and Mel painstakingly create.
The Animators is a book that's hard to put down. It's not predictable, and you'll find yourself wondering, "Where is this going?" But that's never a bad thing--in fact, it's one of the factors that keeps you turning the page. It's an all-consuming book, submerging you completely into Sharon and Mel's world.
Elissa Sanci is a twenty-something writer who's now a grad student studying journalism in New York because she was reluctant to start the real world. Besides drinking too much coffee and daydreaming about traveling the world, she spends most her time writing, reading and complaining about the weather. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @elissasanci.