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The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
Literary fiction

The Animators

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Kayla Rae Whitaker, on your first book!

by Kayla Rae Whitaker

Quick take

"It is about something I love without reservation—women who aren’t afraid to want."

Why I love it

Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

Here’s a confession that might ruin the (completely imaginary) friendship I have with Kayla Rae Whitaker, the author of The Animators—I don’t love animation. I like it just fine, but even as a kid who was only allowed unfettered access to the television on Saturday mornings, I became impatient with cartoons, flipping channels and looking for "real" people.

So I approached The Animators warily—fool I now know myself to be. Yes, the book centers on two animators and, predictably, digs deep into the world of animation, but it is also very much about something I love without reservation—women who aren’t afraid to want.

Mel and Sharon meet in college; they are artists and outsiders, both trying to escape their pasts and claim their futures. Their individual and shared ambition works in (and on) them in different ways, but they become a professional duo, stronger together than apart—with all the struggles and rewards that intimate collaboration requires. Mel and Sharon develop so much mutual trust that they’re able to take the most vulnerable moments from their own lives and offer them to each other as material to turn into great art.

I loved spending time in their company and I found myself slowing down as I approached the end of the book because I didn’t want to leave them behind. No surprise in a novel as beautifully crafted, as witty, and as original as The Animators.

The Animators does something I wish more novels did: offers up a distinct creative vision that only exists between the covers of the book. What a thrill, that moment when you understand that the author is not only inviting you into a world only she can build, but also inviting you to participate in imagining that world. Oh, how I wish I could see Sharon’s and Mel’s creations on the screen, but having them play on a loop in my head was intoxicating. The Animators will steal your heart and break it a little, just like all great art can and should.

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