The Plain Janes by Cecil Castelluci and Jim Rugg is a graphic novel for teens that my fifteen year old daughter enjoyed and passed on to me to read.
I have always shied away from graphic novels, having no interest in the standard Tin Tin/Asterix fare of my childhood, and even less in the Superman/Batman style fantasy genre of my later years. This though, is a little different. Effectively it is a novel about ordinary life, but just illustrated. It turns out I liked it.
Jane is the survivor of a horrific bomb attack in Metro City. She saves the life of a stranger who remains in a coma in hospital while her parents decide to move out to the safety of suburbia. Jane, who has been regularly visiting the young man in hospital, trying to make sense of what happened to her, is horrified and thinks her life will be over.
At the Buzz Aldrin High School she meets three outcast girls, also named Jane, and persuades them to form a guerrilla art group called PLAIN, which ‘terrorises’ suburbia with random acts of art work. The activities of PLAIN outrage the adults, but bring the students of the school together in surprising and unexpected ways.
I rather enjoyed this quirky tale of High School difference and being the outcast, told in a refreshing and up to date way. It would be the perfect antidote to the pulp, romance fiction and horror that makes up the large part of ‘teen’ bookshelves in book shops these days. I recommend it for girls aged 13-16.