The Plain Janes - Cecil Castellucci, Jim Rugg Well, since my library didn’t have Watchmen or Persepolis and I was in the mood for a graphic novel, I ended up picking this one. I really liked the cover art and the back of the book asks the question “But can art really save a group of misfits from the hell that is high school?” That sounded kind of familiar so I decided to give it a try. In high school I was definitely a plain Jane (still am, whoop whoop!), and some of my favorite memories are the ones that took place in the art room. Art was definitely an escape for me then, just like books are today, and Main Jane (the protagonist of the book) finds a similar escape in the sketchbook of a John Doe and the exploits of the P.L.A.I.N.s.

Jane used to live in Metro City, until a bomb went off and almost killed her. The terrorist attack causes everyone to go into panic mode, especially her parents, who decide to move the family to the safety of the suburbs. The bombing changes Jane a lot – she used to be a carefree popular girl but now she’s chopped off all her hair and dyed it black. She doesn’t want to be the person she was before the attack so she declines the popular girls’ invitation to sit with them at their lunch table. She chooses instead a group of misfits who happen to all have the same name as her. There’s Brain Jayne (the science geek), Sporty Polly Jane (the jock), and Theater Jane (the drama club devotee). (Side note: Where the crap is the band nerd? I was hoping for a fellow plumed-hat-toting, sequined-sash-wearing clarinetist to cheer on!) They’re all pretty one-dimensional, typical stereotypes with very little dialogue, but Main Jane becomes smitten with them and is determined to be their friend. She convinces them all to participate in her secret public/street art plan called P.L.A.I.N. (People Loving Art In Neighborhoods), a way to bring the community together and make it a better, happier place. They make sock puppets to promote donating to a toy drive, encourage the school to sing together like a flash mob, etc. But, of course, not all of the population is on board with the P.L.A.I.N. demonstrations. Some of the people interpret them as threats and flagrant defiance of the law. I was actually inspired by the Plain Janes’ street art. It made me want to go out and do something similar. It’s probably safe to say that I won’t be sprinkling the police station’s lawn with a hundred lawn gnomes, but that would be pretty epic.

A couple of parts in the book bugged me, like the random make-out session with dude-man right after Jane had gotten super pissed at him for not driving her to the airport to go to Poland. That was just strange and seemed completely out of place, like the author or editor just randomly decided that there needed to be a love story thrown in there. The other disappointing part was the ending. It felt more like a cliffhanger than an ending, with so many things left unresolved and forgotten.

Great story overall but with gaps that make the book feel incomplete and forced at times. I’d recommend it for teenage girls or fans of chick-lit and graphic novels with female protagonists. I thought the moral of the story, that art can save people and bring a community together, was freakin awesome. 5 stars for the lesson about art but 3.5 stars overall for the book (if the author could just fill in those breaks and make the story run smoother towards the end it’d be perfect).