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The Plain Janes


The Plain Janes The Plain Janes The Plain Janes

The Plain Janes back

Cecil Castellucci & Jim Rugg

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Page 45 Review by Stephen

"Hopeless is lying in a hospital bed with a ringing in your ear and trying to forget the screaming.
"Loud noises made me jump. Sounds I couldn't identify made me jump.
"Silence made me nervous.
"But there was hope in that sketchbook."

Since the bomb blast, life has changed for Jane. Some of it - her hair, for example - she changed herself; other aspects, like being relocated from cool city to staid suburbia, has been thrust upon her by her fearful parents. "Mom doesn't see the beauty in anything any longer. She only sees the danger. I want her to stop worrying and love the world again, because if she can, then I can." Her mum, in fact, is neurotic, incessantly phoning her at all manner of embarrassing moments and as we all know, "It's hard to be a rebel on a leash."

PLAIN JANES is packed with such eminently printable quotes, but that's the young lead lady for you: feisty, defiant, quietly cool, predominantly optimistic yet occasionally sardonic.

"Here we go. Nothing worse than starting the school year six weeks late. Remember, it's just four years. Om, and all that."

Jane's actually well received by the "in" crowd at school, but sees no merit in that, electing instead to sit at a table with three other Janes - one a thespian, one a scientist and one an aspiring soccer player - but they're simply not interested in Jane, each other, or anything else outside their own insular little worlds until Jane summons all her wit to understand them, then guile to galvanise them. And so begins their inspired campaign of local art attacks as the covert club called P.L.A.I.N - People Living Art In The Neighbourhoods, and Catellucci's astute observations on adult society's overwhelming confusion if not outright hostility towards public art.

I'm honestly quite surprised to declare DC's first salvo in their bid for young-teen female readers such an attractive success. The cover's horrid, but the art inside communicates mood and expression successfully and succinctly, whilst there are elements of Jane and her life that are instantly identifiable as nigh-universal, whether it's the overprotective mum (all mums are perceived as overprotective, regardless of innocence or guilt!), the missed opportunities, frozen in romance's blinding and gagging headlights, or just the immortal phrase (muttered several times a week, I'll bet): "Boys suck."

I like the fact that Jane's far from perfect, giving way on occasion to unreasonable sulks, and suffering the setbacks we all do in life along with the inevitable, attendant deflation of confidence. But her creativity and her sense of fun are infectious both for the three Janes and for this reader, and I'd have thought there's nothing more seductive to the book's target audience than the act and art of rebellion. This is full of it.
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