Author(s): Kayla Rae Whitaker
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 Kisses, quietly ambitious but self-doubting, arrives from rural Kentucky. Mel Vaught, brash, unapologetic, wildly gifted, brings her own brand of hellfire from the backwaters of Florida. Both outsiders, Sharon and Mel become fervent friends, bonding over classic cartoons and dysfunctional families. Working, absorbing, drinking. Drawing- Mel, to understand her own tumultuous past, and Sharon, to lose herself altogether. A decade later, Sharon and Mel are an award-winning animation duo, and with the release of their first full-length feature, a fearless look at Mel's childhood, they stand at the cusp of success. But while on tour to promote the film, cracks in their relationship start to form- Sharon begins to feel like a tag-along and suspects that raucous Mel is the real artist. When unexpected tragedy strikes, long-buried resentments rise to the surface, threatening their partnership - and 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.
'An engrossing, exuberant ride through all the territories of love - familial, romantic, sexual, love of friends, and, perhaps above all, white-hot passion for the art you were born to make ... I wish I'd written The Animators.' - Emma Donoghue, author of Room and The Wonder;'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;'A compulsively readable portrait of women as incandescent artists and intimate collaborators.' - Elle;'An exquisite portrait of a life-defining partnership ... [The Animators] creeps up on you and then swallows you whole.' - Kirkus (starred review)
Kayla Rae Whitaker was born and raised in Kentucky. She is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and of New York University's MFA program, which she attended as a Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Scholar. She lives in Louisville. The Animators is her first novel.