Named One of the Best Books of the Year by Kirkus Reviews She was the first person to see me as I had always wanted to be seen. It was enough to indebt me to her forever. 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. A funny, heartbreaking novel of friendship, art, and trauma, The Animators is about the secrets we keep and the burdens we shed on the road to adulthood. Praise for The Animators "Unusual and appealing . . . The Animators covers familiar debut-novel territory: the search for identity, the desire for success, the bewildering experiences of small-town misfits leaving home for the bright lights of New York City. But Whitaker turns these motifs on their heads simply by changing the direction of the road and populating it with women."--The New York Times Book Review "A mix of Beaches, Girls, and Thelma & Louise . . . a 'complicated, ' 'sensual, sexy, ' raw nerve of a 'roller coaster' through a 'tumultuous' friendship . . . If you let this story happen to you, you're gonna love it."--Glamour "The Animators is inspiring in its freshness and its authenticity, one of the most original and raw books I've read in a long time. I look forward to more Whitaker novels to add to my library."--The Dallas Morning News "Suffused with humor, tragedy and deep insights about art and friendship."--People " A] stunning debut."--Variety "A compulsively readable portrait of women as incandescent artists and intimate collaborators."--Elle
Navigating a shared creative life
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.