THE ANIMATORS by Kayla Rae Whitaker | Judge a Book – Play along as Judge a Book contestants at the Brooklyn Book Festival try to figure out what Kayla Rae Whitaker’s THE ANIMATORS is about ONLY by looking at its cover. An existential journey? An irreverent person? The unknown?
“A wildly original novel that pulses with heart and truth . . . That this powerful exploration of friendship, desire, ambition, and secrets manages to be ebullient, gripping, heartbreaking, and deeply deeply funny is a testament to Kayla Rae Whitaker’s formidable gifts. I was so sorry to reach the final page. Sharon and Mel will stay with me for a very long time.”—Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, author of The Nest
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.
Advance praise for The Animators
“A mix of Beaches, Girls, and Thelma & Louise . . . If you let this story happen to you, you’re gonna love it.”—Glamour
“[An] outstanding debut . . . Whitaker skillfully charts the creative process, its lulls and sudden rushes of perfect inspiration. And in the relationship between Mel and Sharon, she has created something wonderful and exceptional: a rich, deep, and emotionally true connection that will certainly steal the hearts of readers.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Unexpected and nuanced and pulsing with life . . . Sweeping and intimate . . . Empathetic but never sentimental; a book that creeps up on you and then swallows you whole.”—Kirkus (starred review)
“Visceral . . . utterly compelling . . . with the nonstop tension of a soap opera.”—Booklist
“A compulsively readable portrait of women as incandescent artists and intimate collaborators.”—Elle
“An engrossing, exuberant ride through all the territories of love—familial, romantic, sexual, love of friends, and, perhaps above all, white-hot passion for the art you were born to make . . . I wish I’d written The Animators.”—Emma Donoghue, author of Room and The Wonder
“The Animators is a heartbreakingly beautiful, sharply funny, arrestingly unforgettable novel.”—Kate Christensen, PEN/Faulkner Award–winning author of The Great Man