Wednesday, December 5, 2007
The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
Jane is less than thrilled when her well-meaning but frightened parents decide to move from the vibrant and urban Metro City to a boring and sleepy suburb. Why are they moving? Jane was a victim of a random bombing, and while her parents react to the crisis by trying to shelter and protect their daughter from the larger world, Jane herself reacts by reevaluating the things that make life interesting.
On her first day at her new school Jane has the chance to take her place with the popular kids but declines, feeling that popularity is part of her past life and preferring to make her own way. When she finds three other girls who seem to have nothing in common other than their name - Jane - she decides to take advantage of what may be a unique opportunity.
Together the Janes form a secret group that creates guerrilla art installations throughout town in the dark of the night. Their identities are secret, but their actions become popular with most of the kids at school if for no other reason than that it makes the authority figures nervous and angry. But for the Janes, their new form of expression breathes life and meaning into their otherwise quiet and dull town.
Meanwhile at home, Main Jane's mother becomes increasingly paranoid and protective, effectively sucking the joy out of their small family. Art might be able to save Jane, but what could possibly save her mother?
I quite honestly loved this story. I wanted these girls to be my friends, and I loved the idea of guerrilla art 'perpetrated' by a secret gang of girls. I thought Jim Rugg's art resembles the story itself - neither too cartoony nor overly complicated.
I feel that this story has a lot to offer readers in terms of theme and ideology, particularly with the question of how we can continue to live lives without fear in an increasingly scary world. How do we build meaningful relationships in an environment where violence is becoming a given? And yet the story was still fun and playful. I wish more graphic novels could strike that balance.
This book is aimed at teen girls but may also appeal to fans of the graphic novel or manga, or readers interested in art, alternate forms of expression, and friendship stories.