The Plain Janes
I am VERY impressed. I mean, I knew I'd like the book if for no other reason than the incredible energy and excitement that Cecil and editor Shelley Bond had for it at the Paradise show. I take it as a VERY good sign when the author and editor show such an amazing passion and verve for the work.
And I have not been disappointed. I won't lie to you, I sat there on the couch and read the whole thing in one go, cover to cover. I've been waiting for the past week to read it, waiting for just the right time. I wanted to like this book so much that I tried to make sure I was in the best head space possible to read it.
I have not been disappointed. Its good. I mean, its really good. One of the purest breathes of fresh air to hit my reading list in a long time. Regular readers know me, you know what I normally read (pretty much anything to do with the occult, espionage, or my small number of favourite superheroes). But Cecil has created something truly wonderful.
The story itself is straightforward and works well in the space given. The focus on the four primary characters with a number of secondary and background characters creates a very slick story that, while written for young adults, is still approachable to older readers (myself, case in point).
The story focuses on "Main" Jane, who has moved from "Metro City" (no State named, but it is easy to read into as Everycity, America, in a post 9/11 War-on-Terror kind of world) to the suburbia of Kent Waters. One of the victims of a terrorist bombing, Jane has ended up on the outside of school society and at Buzz Aldrin High finds her "tribe" among a group of three other outcast girls...all of whom are also named Jane (well, Jayne [Brain Jane], Polly Jane [Sporty Jane], and Jane [Theatre Jane]). The tribe is brought together by their actions as PLAIN "People Loving Art in Neighbourhoods", staging art attacks around the town.
That's a really big simplification of the plot, but its...well, its so the kind of thing I *wish* I had been doing back in high school. The art attacks, I mean. Its the kind of thing I could easily have seen my art teacher at Mac organizing...and I'm sure that Oakville would have had more or less the same response as Kent Waters. But I digress.
What really makes the book special is the level of detail given to the characters. They are VERY distinctive, and not the typical cliches, which is what I find particularly appealing. Each has their own VERY distinct look, and artist Jim Rugg has found a way of drawing the Janes so that they look very...ordinary. Like most of the girls you went to high school with. Main Jane's outfit on the back cover looks almost like something out of late 1960s British TV (in a good way, its simple but very cool looking), while Theatre Jane looks more like many of the arts majors I know (though with an interest in a much broader range of theater than the strictly Shakespearian and classic American thespians you tend to see in literature). Brain Jane...did a frickin science project on "Can Humans Echolocate?" (I will say that, yes, I think we can...just not very well). And Sporty Jane likes Manchester United. These girls are all individuals, and the same goes for the other characters as well.
I really don't want to say too much more, I want people to come into the plot with the wonder of not knowing what's going to happen next. This is a book that really deserves your time, and with a price tag of $9.99US, its a steal for what you get.
In conclusion, giving the book two thumbs up. And seriously considering the art attack idea.