Fiction

Book Review: The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

One-sentence summary:
Mel and Sharon, friends since their days at college, spend more than a decade together creating animations and helping each other through the travails of adulthood.


The Animators packs a lot into its pages.

(possible mild spoilers – read this paragraph at your own risk):
Friendship, career ambitions, medical emergencies, relationships gone wrong, traumatic childhoods, pearl-clutching family dramas…

It has just about every Lifetime movie theme you could throw at it.

But it doesn’t read like a Lifetime movie. It doesn’t set out to release the tear ducts like a kraken.

Every event is presented with the wry, sarcastic, jaded, unvarnished view that Mel and Sharon give everything in their lives.

They don’t expect singling out as Very Important People, and in fact, feel uncomfortable when they are. They don’t want to play nice or fit in. They just want to work on their next project.

They’re suited for each other, to the exclusion of everyone else.

And there lies Mel and Sharon’s simultaneous salvation and downfall. They keep each other going through devastating times. But their symbiosis also keeps them from moving into real relationships with anyone else. They treasure, but sometimes resent the roles they play in each others’ lives.

There’s so much to like about The Animators. One favorite is their process of animation itself. We get to see masters at their craft. The sleep-free nights, crappy food, chain-smoking, almost fugue state of getting these stories onto paper is fascinating.

It’s akin to my fascination for the Rocky training sequences. When Sylvester Stallone is running faster and faster, then making it up the stairs, I often punch the air and jog in place with him when he gets to the top.

A nerdy girl equivalent of that is a lot less sexy, but in my mind, I rooted on Mel and Sharon K during their animation scenes, cheering, “Draw harder, woo!!!”

The good:
So much good here, including the nicely illustrated peripheral players. Power lesbians also had feelings. Hillbillies also had insight.

The bad:
Sharon and Mel were frustrating at times, but it’s misleading/wrong for me to file that has a bad thing about the book. It’s actually another way the author created fully-formed characters.