Book Review – The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

My mum said, and I quote, “I’ve been told this book is great but I think it might be a slow start, so just stick with it”. This was not the case. I was interested in page one, I was enjoying it from page five, and I was absolutely hooked not long after.

The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker is a story about two young women that meet each other at university doing Art degrees and become life long friends, nay not friends, it is more than that, it is a love affair, a spiritual connection, a ying and yang relationship. They complete each other; they don’t always know it. The story quickly fast-forwards to them as adults, still side by side, as Animators in New York City. This book is a journey of everything that surrounds their life as animators, their back-stories and futures, their friendship and relationships, their dark and their light.

I am a sucker for anything that has an artist in the narrative. Book or movie, fiction or none. I enjoy basking in the stereotypical behaviours of artists, be it dark, moody and alcoholic or narcissistic, ADHD, sociopaths or even witty, charismatic social butterflies (like myself, plus or minus a couple of the other traits): I love it.

Whitaker writes in the first person and this has always been my favourite style. I started journaling when I was thirteen (and I’m not afraid to admit it) and the very first book I read that contained diary entries written in the first person was the amazing, ‘Go ask Alice’ by Beatrice Sparks, that book was enough to make me believe I would never try Acid (until I tried Acid), but also that writing in the first person is a great way to engage with your reader: I felt like I was in the room with The Animators characters, I felt like I was rolling the words around my own mouth.

There is also a lot of dialogue: funny, loud, swearing, Kentucky twang that kept the book moving. It had its peaks in all the right places and from my previous learning’s of novel writing (none of which I’ve utilised), it seems as though Whitaker has followed the textbook to a tee, mastering the A + B = novel calculation.

The challenges in this book are the same as any American author written book, the references to brands or mediums that we (non-Americans) might not recognise. This isn’t the first time I’ve come across this but in this particular book, perhaps because I was committed to the craft, I found the context any references were put in made it relatively easy to comprehend.

I can count on one hand the books that have put a lump in my throat and caused my heart to race, with anxiety or pleasure. This is one of them, officially at the top of the list.

I loved this book because I saw myself in both main characters. Me in real life would be Sharon, but me in my alternate life, the one where I am a famous, well-known Author, writing for a living, curled up in a New York City apartment with high attic shaped ceilings and a fever for wine and attention, that’s Mel ( I could go on and on about Mel and Sharon but that would be a total SPOILER ALERT. You are welcome).

I fell in love with them both and even though I know nothing about animation, I know nothing about the craft, the processes, the equipment and not particularly the genre of animations they are so dedicated to, Whitaker sucked me in. After a few different moments describing the animations (and don’t worry there aren’t many) you start to get the hang of it; you get caught up in the pace, emotion or intensity of the narrative of their short seventy five minute movies and at one point I caught myself laughing out loud, because I could see it in my mind, as if I was watching it for myself on a late night in the dark of my lounge room, smoking joints and drinking beers, being twenty, no responsibilities, just bean bags. Bean bags everywhere.

I stayed up late to finish this book in the hope it wouldn’t end.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to just anyone. I don’t expect just anyone to be as enthralled with the lifestyles of up and coming, struggling artists of any kind. I don’t expect that everyone will have the capacity to continue reading something they don’t fully understand. But surrounding these two spectacular characters is sex, drugs, art, embarrassing family members, highs and lows (really trying not to spoil it).

I recommend this book to those that want a small challenge, to those that are finished reading about housewives and shitty husbands. I recommend this book to artists, struggling, up and coming or successful.

If you start it, finish it.

I would love to hear from anyone else who has read The Animators.

What did you think?


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