REVIEW:The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg

The Plain Janes (MINX) by Cecil CastellucciThe Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg is the  first release from the Minx Imprint published this year. Similar to the other Minx titles, it features a strong female protagonist in yet another well written coming of age story for teens. Here is the back blurb:

Noted young adult novelist Cecil Castellucci and artist Jim Rugg launch MINX with THE PLAIN JANES, a story about four girls named Jane who sit at the reject table at lunch.

When transfer student Jane is forced to move from the confines of Metro City to Suburbia, she thinks her life is over. But there in the lunch room at the reject table she finds her tribe: three other girls named Jane. Main Jane encourages them to form a secret art gang and paint the town P.L.A.I.N. — People Loving Art In Neighborhoods. But can art attacks really save the hell that is high school?

The story opens with Jane’s family moving from the city to the suburbs. A brush with disaster has resulted in her family being afraid of the city. Jane tries not to embrace her parents fear of the world by trying to survive and live her life without being fearful of everyone and everything around her. Her inner strength comes from her daily correspondence with a John Doe who is hospitalized and in a coma. He was also a victim of the same tragedy that forced her family to move.

During lunch, at Jane’s new high school, she bypasses the cool group of kids to befriend three other girls at the reject table.  All have the same name of Jane.  At first they reject Jane’s friendship but eventually she wins them over. Jane loves art and is inspired to create a secret club called P.L.A.I.N which stands for People Loving Art In Neighborhoods and invites her new friends to join. Their art projects draws immediate attention and causes many students to rebel. The uproar by society draws police attention to the group, too. PLAIN becomes popular with the high school kids that even the coolest kids in school want to be apart of PLAIN.  It’s only fitting that the story ends with a bit of suspense as PLAIN pulls off the biggest caper of all.

I really, really enjoyed this title.  However, I do think the cover is somewhat misleading. The story has such a serious tone at the start with Jane’s family having to deal with a tragic event and are forced to change their view of the world. However, it’s Jane’s determination not to share their view: to feel unsafe in her own environment. She struggles not to panic when confronted with her past. She embraces life and change. Inside, she just wants to be different. Plain. Of course she has her moments of doubt and weakness but she tries to overcome them. I really enjoyed this story and wanted to know more. There were a couple of threads that were not resolved so I’m hoping that we’ll see the four Jane’s again soon. Likable characters, decent artwork, interesting story with a bit of romance, I’d grade this one a B+.

I’d never heard of Cecil Castellucci but after much research I see that she is a popular YA novelist and this is her first graphic novel. I’ll have to search out her debut novel, “Boy Proof” which made the ALA Best Book For Young Adults list because I was really impressed with her work here. Her newest release is titled, Beige which shows to be in hardcover. Reading over the back blurbs they sound really interesting.


About Keishon

Voracious reader of just about everything.
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5 Responses to REVIEW:The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg

  1. trisha says:

    Great review! I think the art and story really work well together here, understated and straightforward. And I loved the John Doe subplot.

    Though I do have to admit that this is the only one of the Minx titles I’ve managed to finish so far.

    Love the new look.

  2. Avid Reader says:

    I loved the John Doe subplot and of course the author left us hanging. What is it about the other Minx titles you didn’t like, Trisha? If I had to rank them in order of enjoyment it would be As Good as Lily, The Plane Janes, Clubbing and then the Re-Gifters. The artwork isn’t the best but the stories were interesting as well as predictable.

  3. trisha says:

    Mostly I just couldn’t get into them. I’m still new to graphic novels (Western GNs, that is, not manga) and though I’m making an effort to read more graphic novels, I think I’m still in a getting-used-to-them phase. It was the same when I first started reading manga. Found a couple that I instantly loved, but most I didn’t finish. Whereas now I probably finish a higher proportion of manga that I pick up than prose books (though there are a lot of manga series, so that’s probably an unfair comparison). So maybe it’s that I found The Plain Janes more accessible than the other Minx titles, while still having enough depth to keep me engaged?

  4. Avid Reader says:

    When I first started reading manga – I had a guide sheet from a friend who is well read in the genre so that helped me a lot. I’ve transitioned to comic books (as you can tell already) and find them quick reads whenever I want something different to read. Manga/comics provide fresh air whenever I get bored with genre fiction. I also got a copy of Betwixt sitting on my nightstand. Are you going to review it on your site?

  5. trisha says:

    I loaned my copy of Betwixt to another librarian with my review still unfinished. But I ordered a copy for my library, so the review may still happen. Whether or not I can articulate my thoughts about it is another matter.

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