Castellucci, Cecil and Jim Rugg (2007). The Plain Janes. New York: DC Comics.
Summary and Evaluation - After Jane suffers injuries during a attack in Metro City, her terrified parents move her to suburbia away from the dangers of a big city and from her nameless friend still unconscious in the hospital. On her first day at her new school, Jane discovers a table of misfits, a science geek, a benchwarmer, and a theater enthusiast, who all share Jane's name. Determined to have friends and instill a bit of confidence in each one, Jane forms a gang of artists that uses the community as a pallet. Energized by their "art attacks" and inspired by her anonymous friend, Jane plots even greater escapades until the police get involved and try to stop the so-called vandalism.
At first glance, this is a rather typical High School story. A beautiful, miniskirt clad move-in raises the status of the shy, frumpy, and frustrated to the level of respect in the school. The cute boy rejects the most popular girl for the freakish new girl. The romance is rocky but ends with the boy sacrificing himself to save Jane's honor. I found that despite these typical story elements, I could really enjoy the characters and their quirky attempts to save the community through art. Many high school stories are shallow attempts at seeming cool, but this proves that teens have more strength than adults realize. Jane's growth is mostly shown through her numerous letters to her friend asleep in the hospital. Her letters show her personal struggle that otherwise we would not see. I normally cringe at the thought of a graphic novel, but the illustrations were realistic and depicted each personality well. Jane is experiencing different feelings in almost every frame. With four characters of the same name, the graphic form is really the only way to make this novel work. While prose could have added deeper insight, it would have become chaotic for the best of readers.
Booktalk Hook: I don't think any graphic novel is going to need much of an introduction, but the realistic graphic novel is still an emerging genre. I would emphasize the themes of finding oneself and how it is presented in a realistic story.
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