The Travails of Friendship in "The Animators", by Kayla Rae Whitaker - Book Review

Short haired, loud mouthed lesbian Mel Vaught; weight conscious, big chested, introverted Sharon Kisses. Tentative friends early on in college, fierce duo upon graduation and after. Teaming up as animators, they turn what they love to do into full-time work. As their first major endeavor, they make a full-length feature animated film about Mel’s life to much acclaim. That acclaim sets them off and running both professionally and in their personal lives, sometimes in parallel lines; sometimes in almost opposite directions.

Major life events happen to these women in the pages of this story and, with each one, you think it’s the climax. It’s not. But this isn’t a criticism, more of a warning. This book is chock full of exhilarating highs, bone crushing lows, and sizzling emotion from deeply developed characters. The underpinning of the entire tale hinges on the personalities and evolution of characters Mel and Sharon, and Whitaker's masterful use of dialogue in such a unique style throughout the book aids in its character development.

The Animators: A Novel
By Kayla Rae Whitaker

Sharon is the hero on the journey here, and she’s forced to learn much about herself, her relationship with Mel, and how to be her own person. This book dives into friendships as life changing relationships. Ones that can be as significant, if not more, than spousal or familial ties and how they can be just as impactful and destructive if left unchecked.   

Whitaker writes in great detail about the art and business of animation, a topic about which I previously knew nothing. If Whitaker isn’t professionally trained as an animator, she’s certainly done her research. The book is an interesting and insightful look into a very nuanced world and, for me, a true education into new material.

In the first few pages of the book, I was hooked. On Mel and Sharon as people, on their travails together and apart, on their work life, on their stories, real and imagined. Gripping and vivid, The Animators struck major chords.  

Published: 2017
Publisher: Random House

Elizabeth's rating: 4 stars

Facing Cancer From a Surprising Source: "All You Could Ask For", by Mike Greenberg - Book Review

Mike Greenberg, most commonly known as Greenie and the co-host of ESPN’s Mike & Mike, writes a novel from the perspective of three women. Huh? I was immediately skeptical. As metrosexual and into clothes shopping as Greenie is, at heart, he’s a sports nerd and I doubted he’d be able to convincingly shift into a women’s voice without sounding insincere. I was wrong.

Written as a tribute to his dear friend Heidi who lost her battle with breast cancer, Greenberg’s All You Could Ask For centers around three women, Brooke, Samantha and Katherine, who begin the story completely unconnected to one another. By the end, they have forged friendships through their shared experience that will bind them together for the rest of their lives.

While Greenberg occasionally drops in a silly cliché (no woman ever seriously says a guy makes her quiver), his insight into the female psyche is quite prophetic. He writes about broken hearts, loneliness, motherhood, and the depths of female friendship in ways that have you forgetting he’s a male author as you read.

He writes a touching story about a touchy topic. Cancer hits people where it finds them, and not all cancer sufferers handle their diagnoses in the same way. Even as a reader, I found myself judging certain characters’ reactions to their brushes with cancer but Greenie does this on purpose, I think. He does it to hammer home the idea that it is up to every person, in this book, every woman, to decide how and what to do with her body. Her body, her choice. In that vein, Greenberg speaks to a broader issue than cancer, whether he means to or not.

All You Could Ask For is a tearjerker, but in a mostly upbeat way. While cancer is the underlying common thread, Greenberg’s focus is the bonds that can be forged between women who truly need, love, and respect one another and how unassailable those bonds are once in place.

Kudos to Greenie for having the courage to write this book, doing it so well, and so beautifully honoring the life of his friend, Heidi. On top of his meaningful story, he contributed all of his profits from the book to The V Foundation for Cancer Research to combat breast cancer.

Published: 2013
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

Elizabeth's rating: 3 ½

"Love and Other Perishable Items", by Laura Buzo - Book Review

“So, Amelia, what do you hate?” he says, leaning back in his side of the booth.
“Hate?”
“Yes, hate. You know, despise, loathe, abhor. What erodes you from the inside?”
“What, about myself, or the world in general?”
“Let’s start with you, then move on to the world in general.”
“I hate that I am fat and ugly and stupid.”
Chris takes a swig of his beer. “You are none of those things, but I can dig irrational self-loathing. What else?”

Australian author, Laura Buzo’s novel, Love and Other Perishable Itemstakes a realistic and charming look at what a young girl endures when she has a crush that she knows deep down will not amount to anything except a broken heart. 15-year-old Amelia Hayes falls for her grocery store co-worker, Chris. At 21-years-old, Amelia knows that Chris is too old for her, but this does not stop her from falling for him and obsessing non-stop about every interaction.

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