The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
Watching lines on paper come to life is a magic trick that never fades, the simple and infinite pleasure of animation. Sharon and Mel arrive at art school in awe of it, the weird kids ostracised in their home towns for loving the wrong music, dressing the wrong way and knowing that cartoons are a serious business. Both are driven into the bigger, brighter worlds inside their heads and TV screens by their dim reality – Sharon being absorbed shyly into fictions while Mel explodes out into the real world as her own larger than life creation. They become friends and creative partners on first contact, spilling their inner lives into their cartoons in an attempt to draw a version they can make sense of.
As the plot moves along in Kayla Rae Whitaker's debut novel, the twists come less like bends in the road than eighteen-wheelers careering out of nowhere to smash through their lives. Death, illness and insecurity, childhood secrets and fears about the future – The Animators is about trying to make art, find love and keep sane amongst the chaos of everyday life.
Whitaker’s heroes have that cartoon quality of being more brightly coloured and clearly drawn than reality yet so human as to make them utterly absorbing. It hurts when they get hit and you soar when they succeed – more than anything else, you just want to spend more time with them.