Kate's Reviews > The Plain Janes

The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci
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May 14, 2009

liked it

The story is of a "Metro City" (fictional NYC) teen-ager Jane who is walking down the street one day when a bomb goes off right next to her. Her parents whisk the fam out to the suburbs, where things are safer, and, unfortunately for Jane, much more bland. She's arty and interesting and likes "culture."

The man next to her on the sidewalk that day, an artist, went into a coma after the explosion. Jane keeps his sketchbook. She writes him letters on the blank pages and sends them to him in the hospital after she has moved away. His life in suspension very much parallels her own, as does her need for him to wake up, to live.

In her new school, Jane befriends a motley clique of three more "Janes," the theater-y, brainy, jock-y non cheerleaders. Jane comes up with an idea: P.L.A.I.N.: People Loving Art In Neighborhoods. The Janes start putting up public art all over the town, which the authorities soon classify as "attacks" and retaliate. Soon curfews are imposed on teen-agers, and the police try to get students to snitch on who these secret public artists are...

For our main Jane, the real question is, can art save her? Because after the bomb explosion, her move to the suburbs, her mother's hysteria over her safety, her crush letting her down, Jane needs to be saved. She needs to know she will always be able to find the world beautiful, and welcoming.

There's a lot of heart and integrity in this graphic novel. The drawings are good but didn't blow my mind.

Finally, I wonder if this is one of those books that adults write about teen-agers, ostensibly FOR teen-agers, hoping to give them a more soulful, nourishing alternative to Gossip Girl, but... the people who actually read it are all like me, well out of adolescence, appreciating this complex, three-dimensional main character and the fact that her issues go beyond boys, malicious gossip, really nice clothes, and catty popularity wars.

A really commendable project. I gave it three stars, not four, because it didn't really teach me anything, or show me anything, exactly, but I really want to get behind this book and others like it.
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