The Plain Janes
By Cecil Castellucci and James Rugg
Young Adult/Graphic Novel
It’s probably starting to sound like a broken record around here, but yes, I loved this book. Hey, I can’t help that I am having the mother of all fantastic reading years! Don’t hold it against me and don’t think I have high standards. I should say that I tend to put down books I do not love and seldom review them here. I only tell you about what I love, okay!!!
Cecil Castellucci is a new author for me. I’ve seen her books before, in the YA section at the library and bookstore, and I’ve heard great things about her books and always meant to read her. I don’t know how it happened that I got my hands on The Plain Janes…I think I just saw it sitting on the shelf at the library and decided on a whim to pick it up. I am so glad I did.
The Plain Janes is the first of these two comic books that center on Jane, or the main JANE of the story. The book opens with a bombing in Metro City, the city Jane lives in. She is injured in the bombing and as a result her parents take her and move to a new, sleepy little city called Kent Waters. Jane struggles to create herself anew and is driven by the need to not be just plain terrified of this new world she’s landed in thanks to the terrorist bombing. She’s bored and lonely in Kent Waters and is delighted to find three other girls named Jane, all of them as out of place as she is. They form the group The P.L.A.I.N. Janes (People Loving Art in Neighborhoods) and decide to “beautify” their city with what they call “art attacks.” Many people love the art, but many of them don’t, calling in vandalism and swearing to catch those who are doing it and punish them. The Plain Janes give Main Jane a new sense of purpose and help her begin the healing processes from the bombing.
I really enjoyed this little book about art renegades and really identified with Main Jane. We’ve all had tragic, confusing things happen in our lives and I think Jane personified the struggle we all face as we find ourselves…especially during those wicked teenage years. In this day and time, many teenagers are facing bigger things than even I, a 31-year-old, not THAT long out of the school room ever faced and I think they would find comfort and encouragement in all the Janes. Heck, even as a 31-year-old, not THAT long out of the school room, I feel like I’m still finding MYSELF and for that reason, I think even adults would enjoy this lovely little graphic novel.
Castellucci takes care to give each Jane her own spirited and distinct personality. Each has her own “thing” that she brings to The Plain Janes. Rugg’s art work isn’t like superhero comics or in a manga style, but more in the plain, black ink drawings of Craig Thompson and Dan Clowes and I think suits the story perfectly. All in all, this was a sympathetic look at the stress of trying to conform and the import of self-expression. I think any fan of comics, art, and young adult literature will enjoy this work.