From age eighteen on, I had a partner, a kindred spirit. I had a friend. Someone bound and determined to keep me from the worst in myself.
At a private East Coast college, two young women meet in art class. Sharon, ambitious but lacking confidence, arrives from rural Kentucky. Mel, brash and wildly gifted, brings her own brand of hellfire from the backwaters of Florida. Both outsiders, Sharon and Mel become fervent friends, bonding over their love of classic cartoons, their dysfunctional working-class families, and – above all – their craft: drawing. Mel, to understand her tumultuous past, and Sharon, to lose herself altogether.
A decade later, Sharon and Mel are an award-winning animation duo, living and working in Brooklyn, and poised on the edge of even greater success after the release of their first full-length feature. But with this success comes self-doubt, and cracks in their relationship start to form. When unexpected tragedy strikes, long-buried resentments rise to the surface, hastening a reckoning no one sees coming.
Funny and heartbreaking by turn, The Animators is a dazzling story of female friendship, the cost of a creative life, and the secrets that can undo us.
‘There’s something exciting about The Animators… it’s the confidence of this pacey, passionate novel which really makes you feel that you might be witnessing the dawn of a brilliant career … there is insight in Whitaker’s portrayal of that endlessly complex thing, the simultaneously intense and fragile female friendship.’
Jane Graham, The Big Issue
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‘The Animators is a heartbreakingly beautiful, sharply funny, arrestingly unforgettable novel about love and genius, the powerful obsessiveness of artistic creation, and the equally powerful undertow of the past. Kayla Rae Whitaker writes like her head is on fire.’
Kate Christensen, PEN/Faulkner Award–winning author of The Great Man
‘Every artist must come from somewhere; this is something you try to outrun, even as home fuels the creative engine. The Animators is a novel about a pair of cartoonists, but it’s also about the complexity of creative friendship, about balance and jealousy, growing into yourself and living with your talent and trying to actually, impossibly get along in this cracked and unjust world. The result is unapologetic and raucous and compulsively readable; it is potato-chip-friendly and deeply, generously wise.’
Charles Bock, author of Alice & Oliver
‘[An] outstanding debut … 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.’
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
‘A wildly original novel that pulses with heart and truth. That this powerful exploration of friendship, desire, ambition and secrets manages to be ebullient, gripping, heartbreaking, and deeply, deeply funny is a testament to Whitaker’s formidable gifts. I was so sorry to reach the final page and Sharon and Mel will stay with me for a very long time.’
Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, author of The Nest
‘The Animators is a story of female friendship, but one with honesty and bite. Sharon and Mel’s creative partnership defines their relationship as much as their gender and the story is never clouded with sentimentality.’
‘A compulsively readable portrait of women as incandescent artists and intimate collaborators.’
‘The Animators is about trying to make art, find love and keep sane amongst the chaos of everyday life … Whitaker’s heroes have that cartoon quality of being more brightly coloured and clearly drawn than reality yet so human as to make them utterly absorbing. It hurts when they get hit and you soar when they succeed — more than anything else, you just want to spend more time with them.’
Ross McIndoe, The Skinny
‘An exquisite portrait of a life-defining partnership … [The Animators] creeps up on you and then swallows you whole.’ STARRED REVIEW
‘Female friendship has rarely been described so expertly than in this buzzy tale of two pals working on an animated film, the success of which drives a wedge between them.’