The Animators (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Beginning when they first cross paths in college, Sharon Kisses and Mel Vaught are inseparable. Together they spur each other on to be insatiable animators, churning out raw, groundbreaking work. Whitaker has created characters who are rough around the edges in a way that feels real. This book is filled to bursting with their friendship, conflicts, sexuality, creativity, and trauma. It is fiction true to the lives of modern young women, artists, and city slickers sprung from rural America. It is a testament to the enrapturing force of women's intimate, internal lives and the power of their relationships with one another. -Amy

— From Spring Booknotes 2017


"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 Kayla Rae Whitaker's formidable gifts. I was so sorry to reach the final page. Sharon and Mel will stay with me for a very long time."--Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, author of The Nest


She was the first person to see me as I had always wanted to be seen. It was enough to indebt me to her forever.

In the male-dominated field of animation, Mel Vaught and Sharon Kisses are a dynamic duo, the friction of their differences driving them: Sharon, quietly ambitious but self-doubting; Mel, brash and unapologetic, always the life of the party. Best friends and artistic partners since the first week of college, where they bonded over their working-class roots and obvious talent, they spent their twenties ensconced in a gritty Brooklyn studio. Working, drinking, laughing. Drawing: Mel, to understand her tumultuous past, and Sharon, to lose herself altogether.

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. The toast of the indie film scene, they stand at the cusp of making it big. But with their success come doubt and destruction, cracks in their relationship threatening the delicate balance of their partnership. Sharon begins to feel expendable, suspecting that the ever-more raucous Mel is the real artist. During a trip to Sharon's home state of Kentucky, the only other partner she has ever truly known--her troubled, charismatic childhood best friend, Teddy--reenters her life, and long-buried resentments rise to the surface, hastening a reckoning no one sees coming.

A funny, heartbreaking novel of friendship, art, and trauma, The Animators is about the secrets we keep and the burdens we shed on the road to adulthood.

"Suffused with humor, tragedy and deep insights about art and friendship."--People

" A] stunning debut."--Variety

"A compulsively readable portrait of women as incandescent artists and intimate collaborators."--Elle

About the Author

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. This is her first novel.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780812989281
ISBN-10: 0812989287
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: January 31st, 2017
Pages: 384
Language: English