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Cecil Castellucci & Jim Rugg – The Plain Janes / Janes in Love

April 20, 2012

39 & 40. The Plain Janes and Janes in Love by Cecil Castellucci & Jim Rugg (2007, 2008)

Length: 176 & 152 pages
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction; Graphic Novel

Started / Finished: 08 April 2012

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I recognized Castellucci’s name from Geektastic while browsing the graphic novel section.

There are some things which
can only be said through art.
Big, stealth public art.

Summary: After Jane is caught in a terrorist explosion, her parents move her away from the city and into the comparably safe life of suburbia. But Jane doesn’t fit in, until she finds three other girls named Jane. Stultified by the suburban lifestyle, Jane comes up with a plan to shake up their small town: P.L.A.I.N., or People Loving Art in Neighborhoods, a guerilla street art campaign. But will it be enough?

In Janes in Love, the Janes have mostly given up art after the New Year’s Eve incident, and have turned their attention to matters more personal. But Jane is finding out that neither art nor love is particularly easy, and that in order to find one, she’ll have to pursue the other.

Review: While I really enjoyed the concept and the message behind these books, I came out the other side feeling like they would have been better had they been a little broader. To cover the good points first: I haven’t read a lot of non-fantasy comics, but I’ve also not come across the “Art Saves!” message in any format particularly often, and it’s an interesting one. I also liked the emotional maturity with which certain aspects of the story were handled, particularly Jane’s evolving (if initially one-sided) relationship with John Doe, and the idea that if a crush doesn’t like you back, it’s not the end of the world, or of your worth as a person.

So, while there was an interesting story and a good message, it all primarily focuses around Jane, and I think that it would have been a deeper and more compelling story if we’d gotten the bigger picture. Art Saves Jane, and maybe Art Saves Jane’s town, but what saves Jayne? Or Polly Jane? The other Janes don’t really have the depth of characterization as Main Jane, and are occasionally treated as little more than comic relief. Developing them more as characters, and focusing more on their relationships, both with each other and with the wider world, would have given the story a roundness that it lacks.

But, even so, these were a quick, cute read, with an interesting take on fear and art and community and fitting in and expressing oneself. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: While I think this would appeal most strongly to aspiring artists, it should be enjoyable for anyone who felt like their high school just didn’t get it.

The Plain Janes: This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon
Janes in Love: This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Book Addiction, Capricious Reader (1) (2), Presenting Lenore, She Reads and Reads (1) (2), The Written World, and more at the Book Blogs Search Engine here and here.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: Metro City. Last spring. When it happened, I fell. / I can’t believe it’s been nearly a year since it happened.

© 2012 Fyrefly’s Book Blog. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Fyrefly’s Book Blog or its RSS feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is being used without permission.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. April 20, 2012 11:05 am

    I want more from this series… You should look Castellucci up. She was on the news a couple months ago because she organized a comic book opera. She also has a newish book out that I still haven’t found time to read. I don’t think there are any pictures, just words.

    • April 24, 2012 1:59 pm

      Kailana – I haven’t seen any of her (non-graphic) fiction; I’ll have to see what my library has available!

  2. April 20, 2012 1:44 pm

    They sound like fun to me! I do enjoy non-fantasy graphic novels.

  3. April 21, 2012 11:04 am

    I really loved these graphic novels! they were the first ones I ever read. I have to get them for myself – I find my mind turns to them often, because I like their message of art, and of surviving terrible events, and of course,high school. I found them fun, and funny, and moving, too.

    • April 24, 2012 2:02 pm

      Susan – Hmm, now I’m trying to think about the first graphic novel I ever read… Apart from comic strip collections, I think it was Daniel Quinn’s The Man Who Grew Young, and then many years after that I started with the first volume of Fables.

  4. Amritorupa Kanjilal permalink
    April 24, 2012 12:14 am

    I’m going through a graphic novel phase right now, and your description makes these books sound like Ghost World. They go on my TBR now.

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