Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Plain Janes

The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg is a graphic novel for girls; it is devoid of super powers, mythical creatures, and fairy tale clichés. This novel is for teenagers who would like to read more chic offerings that if not mirror, at least represent, their lives. In response to Jane’s survival of a terrorist attack in Metro City, a bomb explodes in a trash can near a café, Jane and her parents have moved from Metro City to the suburban town of Kent Waters. A new home and town also mean a new school and new friends, something Jane is reluctant to experience. Shunning the popular girls, Jane finds her new “tribe,” a table of outcasts all named Jane.

Driven by her core of inner strength, determination, and need to honor a friend injured in the blast, Jane convinces the other girls to form an art gang, PLAIN (People Loving Art In Neighborhoods). Each girl plays to their slightly stereotypical assets, the brain, jock, performer, and artist, and soon well-planned projects appear to horrify the town. As things progress and friendships grow the girls begin to revel in their glory planning more complicated exhibits. With an interesting plot twist, authorities (parents and school, and local police) put a stop to the art vandalism, but not before the girl gang become a unit.

Graphic elements of this novel are crisp; clean black and while illustrations are easy to read and slightly reminiscent of popular Japanese manga. Completely unrelated to the artistic abilities of Rugg, but an interesting anecdotal occurrence none the less, towards the end of the novel I noticed one Jane wearing a Pittsburgh Steeler's jersey; specifically that of quarterback Ben Rothlisberger. As an avid Steeler fan I immediately wondered about Rugg's hometown roots. It came as no surprise to see this sentence at the back of the book, "He grew up near Pittsburgh and hasn't come up with a good excuse to skip town."

The story flows freely and is true to what is popular to teenagers, something that was planned by the publisher
Minx Books, a subsidiary of DC Comics.

In a New York Times article by George Gene Gustines,
For Graphic Novels, a New Frontier: Teenage Girls, talked with a vice president at DC Comics:

“Teenage girls, Ms. Berger said, are smart and sophisticated and “about more than going out with the cute guy. This line of books gives them something to read that honors that intelligence and assertiveness and that individuality.”

“As a whole, the line is positioned as an alternative for teenage girls who have, especially in bookstores, become increasing smitten with the Japanese comics known as manga. In 2004, DC started CMX, a manga imprint, to capture part of that audience. The marketing then was similar to that used for DC’s other titles.”
(NYT, Gustines, 11/25/06).

In what could be described a male dominated market, it is great to see graphic novels being written for teenage girls. For more information:

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1 comment:

goin2college said...

It sounds like a really interesting book, I can't wait to read it.