This month, I’ve decided I wanted to look at a bunch of books with a focus on art, so I thought it would be perfect to start off with a graphic novel.
The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
Publisher: DC Comics, 2007
Genre: Art, Realism
Format: Hardcover, Graphic Novel
Source: Public Library
After her family moves to the suburbs following a terrifying and life-changing incident in their city home, Jane struggles to figure out exactly where she belongs. As she continues to struggle with the repercussions of her life in the city, meets a boy who seems different than the others, and faces conflict with her parents, she meets three other girls who seem to have nothing in common except they’re all named Jane. The four Janes come together to create a secret club called P.L.A.I.N. (People Loving Art in Neighborhoods) and start to develop a close friendship. But even with the support of the group and their positive messages, things are not as easy as the girls expect.
I first read this book when I was in high school and remember loving it for the way art is depicted. In this book, art is not dependent on training or limited to a definition of “real” or “fine art.” In this book, art is an opportunity for social critique and for positive messages. I’ve loved different kinds of art since I was very young, but I was interested in this depiction of art as something public and shared. It was this book that sparked my interest in street art and “use-able” art – which you’ll see are common themes among many of the YA titles I’m sharing this month.
This book does deal with some pretty serious issues, including the instigating incident that sparks Jane’s move to the suburbs. Although there’s not a lot of explanation or details, Jane slowly reveals that she was present at a bombing in the city and helped save a young man. He didn’t have any identification with him and remains in a coma after the bombing. Jane feels connected to him through their shared experiences and continues trying to help him throughout the novel.
For more information:
Cecil Castellucci’s official website
Jim Rugg’s official website
***** 5/5 stars
A surprisingly seriously graphic novel about four girls named Jane who use art to challenge and change their neighborhood.