In the male-dominated field of animation, Mel Vaught and Sharon Kisses are a dynamic duo, the friction of their differences driving them. Now, after a decade of striving, the two are finally celebrating the release of their first full-length feature, which transforms Mel’s difficult childhood into a provocative and visually daring work of art. But with their success come doubt and destruction, cracks in their relationship threatening the delicate balance of their partnership.
...[an] unusual and appealing debut ... There’s been no shortage in recent years of narratives exploring the complicated and often intense friendships that develop between women. But in “The Animators,” Whitaker has given us something we rarely see: a relationship between two women that also revolves around business and art ... The Animators covers familiar debut-novel territory: the search for identity, the desire for success, the bewildering experiences of small-town misfits leaving home for the bright lights of New York City. But Whitaker turns these motifs on their heads simply by changing the direction of the road and populating it with women ... If The Animators suffers from the debut novelist’s curse of trying to do too much, Whitaker’s obvious talent with dialogue and establishing a sense of place prevents it from feeling weighed down. Also, the intensity of the working relationship between these two flawed women keeps the momentum of the novel alive.
The first chapters of The Animators, seemed less than promising. The setup is a slog, with self-conscious writing and a sense of time muddied by an abundance of retro references and technology. Then, it got good. Really good, with stakes and suspense and an ease of storytelling that was missing before ... For the next 300 pages, Whitaker delivers a memorable, sure-handed, and absorbing tale, rife with vivid characters, passionate if frequently toxic relationships, and an insistent question: Who owns the moral right to tell a story borrowed from real life?
In her breakout novel about two female animators, Kayla Rae Whitaker depicts the drudgery of small-town life tied to the often heartbreaking reality that belonging is sometimes more about a state of mind than a location ...Ms. Whitaker flays open the archetype and challenges it through Southern characters who share a nearly Sherlock-Watson brand of symbiosis ... In the rare moments where The Animators loses steam — sometimes the comic book descriptions are self-indulgent for those who care about the characters over their craft — Ms. Whitaker makes up for it with her prowess in language ...created an earnestly funny story about two successful women in their ‘30s struggling with the pains of past demons and addictions ...a quick read, with delightful language and quirky characters that are difficult to forget long after finishing the last few pages.