The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
This graphic novel tells the story of Jane, who is injured when terrorists set off a bomb in her home city. After Jane is released from the hospital her parents move the family to a quiet suburb where they feel safer. Jane continues to write letters to an unidentified man who’s in a coma and was hospitalized at the same time with her. At her new school Jane turns down invitations from a popular girl to sit with her group at lunch, choosing to sit instead with three “reject” girls, who also happen to be named Jane. They form a group called P.L.A.I.N. (People Loving Art in Neighborhoods), carrying out guerilla installations of art around town. As they continue, the police, school and authorities react with more and more restrictive measures rather than enjoy the art. How the Janes and other students handle the new rules and repression builds to a climax.
I read this book in one afternoon; I really wanted to know how it would end. The graphic format enhances the story perfectly, since the drawings show the projects they develop and the reactions in the town. It reminded me of the “yarnbombing” projects that have appeared around Berkeley in the last few years, with knitters wrapping knitted pieces around bike racks, sign poles, etc. The most notable installation was the letter T in the “There” sculpture by the BART tracks on the Oakland/Berkeley border, wrapped entirely in multicolored knitting.
The characters in this book truly come to life through their actions and their facial expressions. The storyline of “misfits” banding together and taking positive actions rings true. I recommend this book not only to fans of graphic novels, but all readers who are looking for a true to life story of teens who find creative and positive ways to rebel.
Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson