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The Plain Janesby Cecil Castellucci
Synopses & Reviews
When transfer student Jane is forced to move from the confines of Metro City to Suburbia, she thinks her life is over. But there she finds her tribe: three other girls named Jane. The four girls form a secret art gang, but can art really save the hell that is high school? Young adult.
"DC Comics' imprint of graphic novels for girls, Minx, starts off with a bang with this elegant story of art in the suburbs. As Jane walks past a sidewalk caf in Metro City, a terrorist's bomb goes off. Her parents, overtaken by fear, move the family to the small town of Kent Waters. The popular girls at Buzz Aldrin High court her, but Jane wants to be an outsider. She finds three other girls named Jane, all of them unpopular in different ways — one is 'Brain Jane,' one an aspiring actress and one an athlete — and together the four of them make 'art attacks' on the city, leaving the name P.L.A.I.N. (People Loving Art In Neighborhoods) wherever they go. They build pyramids on the site of a planned strip mall ('The pyramids lasted for thousands of years. Do you think this strip mall will?') and populate the police department's lawn with gnomes. But to a community consumed with elevated threat levels, the attacks seem more ominous than generous, and P.L.A.I.N. becomes an outlaw group. All the while, Jane continues to write letters to John Doe, the unidentified man whose life she saved during the bombing — and who sits in a hospital, comatose, his sketchbook serving as her muse. Castellucci (Boy Proof) and Rugg (co-creator of Street Angel) nimbly make their larger point — that fear is an indulgence we must give ourselves permission to overcome — without ever preaching, and without neglecting the dynamics of a page-turning coming-of-age story. Ages 12-up." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"After Metro City is bombed, Jane's parents are finished — ready to move as far as possible from a town haunted by missing-person posters and Orange Alerts. They squire their teenage daughter away to the colorless confines of suburban Kent Waters. 'As though anywhere is really safe,' Jane notes with a verbal eye roll. But her parents won't budge. And so, at the start of Cecil Castellucci and... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) Jim Rugg's amusing, if occasionally puzzling, graphic novel 'The Plain Janes,' Jane enters Buzz Aldrin High under that most dreaded classification: The New Girl.
At first, she seems destined for a life of solo lunches and Friday nights at home. But Jane decides to reinvent herself, to shed her skin and shake up the town in one fell swoop. She hunkers down at the nerd table with — crazy coincidence alert! — Jane, Jayne and Polly Jane. As protagonist Jane sees it, these science geeks and soccer jocks could become a team — her team — of artsy rabble-rousers. The P.L.A.I.N. ('People Loving Art In Neighborhoods') Janes are born.
In the beautifully rendered romp that follows, P.L.A.I.N., determined to break out of the blandscape, undertakes a series of renegade public projects: crafting pyramids out of construction-site rubble, filling the town fountain with dishwashing liquid, placing dozens of garden gnomes in front of the local police station. The authors are skillful at capturing the rudderless intensity of high school years. The girls imagine themselves bold art provocateurs, but 'The Plain Janes' is really about 21st-century adolescence at its most mundane. Class is boring. Parents don't understand. Jane forms a crush on a guy whose shaggy hair and vintage jeans hold her in thrall. To fans of action-packed plotting, these chronicles may sound as mild as school cafeteria food. But the book feels modern precisely because it rejects so many cliches about teenage Sturm und Drang.
Still, many characters seem formulaic and surprisingly underdeveloped. Jane's parents are clueless worrywarts. A gay male student likes clothes and makeovers. The school's pretty girl reacts to the strip-mall pyramids by saying, 'I don't love art in neighborhoods. I love shopping.' And whether it's a sardonic misfit or a hair-fluffing mall rat, nearly every character is thin and Caucasian. In a story that purports to be about subverting the social order, it's disappointing to see characters illustrated with all the imagination of a Hilary Duff movie.Suzanne D'Amato is deputy editor of The Washington Post's Sunday Source section. " Reviewed by Suzane D'Amato., Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
In the lunch room at the reject table transfer student Jane finds her tribe: three other girls named Jane. Main Jane encourages them to form a secret art gang and paint the town P.L.A.I.N. — People Loving Art In Neighborhoods. But can art attacks really save the hell that is high school? 13 and up.
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