Booklist Reviews 2016 December #1
Creative partners since college, Sharon and Mel's friendship crumbles after the release of their first animated hit film, a disturbing reimagining of Mel's life. After Mel's mother dies in jail and Sharon suffers from a stroke, however, they relearn how to support each other and forge ahead, once again as best friends and artists. When they visit Sharon's rural hometown, Sharon shares dark secrets from her past—the impetus for their next controversial movie. With the nonstop tension of a soap opera, Whitaker's debut traces all the big fights and revelations with care. Both women make thoughtless decisions, which readers will only sympathize with because Sharon's narrative voice is so visceral and because Mel is utterly compelling. A charismatic lesbian, she overindulges in everything: drinking, smoking, and, most of all, her passion for drawing stories most people are too afraid to tell. Serious artists will especially relate to Sharon and Mel's journey, but The Animators is recommended for anyone who enjoys unsettling dramas about people who can't escape themselves. Copyright 2016 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2016 December #1
Sharon Kisses and Mel Vaught meet in an art class in college and are immediately drawn into a lifelong friendship. Both come from troubled homes and are warm and loving people hiding inside themselves. Mel is a hard-drinking, -talking, -living lesbian who appears to be absolutely fearless. Sharon is the straight, detail-oriented, introverted counterweight to Mel. For ten years, they have been getting by working on small projects—short cartoons and advertisements. When they put Mel's life onto a cartoon storyboard, create a full-length animated film, and win a Hollingsworth grant, their future seems secure. Then Sharon has a stroke at age 31. This event and Sharon's recovery give them fodder for a second film about Sharon's life. In this fine first novel, Whitaker captures the human frailties that beset everyone—jealousy, anger, insecurity, trauma, the search for love—and weaves them into a compelling story of friendship, self-destruction, and salvation. VERDICT Highly recommended for fiction readers, the LBGTQ community, those with an interest in cartooning, and anyone interested in the variability of the human condition.—Joanna Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., Providence. Copyright 2016 Library Journal.
PW Reviews 2016 July #3
Updating the theme of how artists turn personal pain into art, Whitaker's outstanding debut novel portrays two women working together to create adult cartoons. Mel Vaught and Sharon Kisses meet in a college art class. Confident, talented, and openly gay, Mel anticipates a career in animation, while quiet, lonely, straight, and inexperienced Sharon knows only that she wants to be an artist. Mel introduces Sharon to works by R. Crumb and other alternative animators and comics artists before the two women collaborate on their own dark, funny, carefully crafted work, discovering they perfectly complement each other. A decade after graduation, they gain recognition for Nashville Combat, a full-length animated film based on Mel's early life in central Florida as the daughter of a delinquent mother who went to prison when Mel was 13. Mel and Sharon struggle following the film's success: a drunken Mel rips out the microphone during an NPR interview; they argue; Sharon suffers an aneurism. Renewal for the pair comes with a new project, this one focused on Sharon, who returns with Mel to her eastern Kentucky home to confront her own disturbing memories and reconnect with her one childhood friend. Whitaker deftly sketches settings and characters: Brooklyn is all chain-link fences and loading docks and aging signage, Mel is the fire-starter, Sharon the finisher. Whitaker skillfully charts the creative process, its lulls and sudden rushes of perfect inspiration. And in the relationship between Mel and Sharon, she has created something wonderful and exceptional: a rich, deep, and emotionally true connection that will certainly steal the hearts of readers. Agent: Bonnie Nadell, Hill Nadell Literary Agency. (Jan.)[Page ]. Copyright 2016 PWxyz LLC