Book Review

Kayla Rae Whitaker’s THE ANIMATORS

whitaker-kayla-rae-the-animators-coverTitle: The Animators
Author: Kayla Rae Whitaker
Primary Format: eBook, courtesy of NetGalley and Random House
Secondary Format: audiobook, read by Alex McKenna
Start Date: February 24, 2017
End Date: March 2, 2017
Rating: 4 stars

I had chosen art because I needed something to make use of the bright lights that had existed in my head for as long as I could remember, my fervent, neon wish to be someone else. In high school, I sampled my way up and down the artistic spectrum methodically, like the good student I was, hoping I’d land on something that sparked me: I sketched, I constructed shadowboxes, I threw some rudimentary pots, trying a little of everything, committing seriously to nothing. Too scared, at that point, to put myself at stake for fear of failure, a dead end. The revelation, maybe, that I had nothing to give.

I have a confession: I have had this ARC (thanks to NetGalley) on my TBR shelf since the end of August. I thought the story sounded very intriguing. I enjoy reading books that deal with the deep and often complex friendships (between women in particular), investigating how they can change throughout lives as they grow and mature. But for whatever reason, it has sat there unread. Until now.

The Animators tells the story of Sharon Kisses and Mel Vaught, friends and animating partners for the last ten years. They have always been a good team, but after the release of their first film – Nashville Combat, a personal narrative of Mel’s childhood – Sharon starts to worry that Mel is the real talent in their partnership…and she is just tagging along for the ride. When tragedy strikes, they have to reevaluate everything: their friendship, their partnership, their career, and their own individual lives.

I must say, this story was packed with way more action than I could have anticipated. There is a lot more packed into this book than might initially seem. The synopsis is necessarily vague, and because of this, I had little to no idea what I was getting myself into. It was quite the journey. As we follow Sharon’s and Mel’s lives throughout the course of this book, it feels like one curveball after another. I really didn’t know what I was going to meet with each turn of the page.

There were a lot of things in this book that I thought were really well done.

  • I liked the relationship between Sharon and Mel. It seemed real and deep and believable. Although they seemed almost like opposites on the surface, deep down they were both outsiders just trying to fit in.
  • I liked the dialogue between the characters. Dialogue is often difficult to get right because it can often come off as feeling forced, but not in The Animators. This is something I can appreciate.
  • I liked the writing itself. I thought it was beautiful and lyrical. The words almost seemed to come alive, much like an animation would.
  • I liked getting a glimpse into the world of animation. It really makes you appreciate how much work actually goes into a project and how much time, energy, and soul the writers/animators actually invest into it. It gave me a different perspective.
  • I liked the complex nature of the characters. Mel was talented yet emotionally fragile. Sharon was driven yet insecure. Both women were able to work together as a strong team, albeit for different reasons, to create something unique and dark and personal.

I know what Mel and I did with memory. We ran our endurance dry with our life stories, trying to reproduce them, translate them, make them manageable enough to coexist with. We made them smaller, disfiguring them with our surgeries. We were young. We did not know what we were doing.

There were a few things that both liked and disliked simultaneously.

  • I didn’t like how drawn out the aftermath was. Oftentimes it seemed a little repetitive and boring. Though on the same token, I can appreciate the realism.
  • I also wasn’t a big fan of the overt drinking and drug descriptions that were present. Again, I can appreciate the realism and getting to know the culture of the characters. I did like that the author didn’t shy away from these issues and themes.

I’m still not able to fully wrap my head around everything that happened in this book because it was quite a lot. It’s often heavy and emotionally packed, but it’s also hilarious. The characters are complex and interesting, and even though they have their flaws, you can’t help but feel for them.

In terms of aesthetics, the cover itself is also colorful and definitely eye-catching. Alex McKenna, the narrator of the audiobook, did a fantastic job with giving a life and a unique voice (both figuratively and literally) to each of the characters.

You know, the voiceover continues, it would be nice if we were defined, ultimately, by the people and places we loved. Good things. But at the end of the day, there’s the reality that we’re not. Does the good stuff really have the weight that the weird stuff does? What makes the deeper imprint -all the ridges and gathers – on who we are? Do we have a choice?



If you have the chance, you definitely should not miss this debut by Kayla Rae Whitaker.

I received this book from NetGalley and Random House in exchange for an honest review!


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