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The Animators  By  cover art

The Animators

By: Kayla Rae Whitaker
Narrated by: Alex McKenna
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Publisher's Summary

“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)

Named one of the best books of the year by Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Kirkus Reviews, and BookPage.

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 20s 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)

©2017 Kayla Rae Whitaker (P)2017 Random House Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: LGBTQ+

Critic Reviews

"A mix of Beaches, Girls, and Thelma & Louise...a 'complicated', 'sensual, sexy', raw nerve of a 'roller coaster' through a 'tumultuous' friendship...If you let this story happen to you, you're gonna love it." (Glamour)

"Whitaker captures the human frailties that beset everyone - jealousy, anger, insecurity, trauma, the search for love - and weaves them into a compelling story of friendship, self-destruction, and salvation." (Library Journal)

What listeners say about The Animators

Average Customer Ratings
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Wow! What a wonderful surprise!

I LOVE this book. Here's why:

1. The writing is original and authentic. The dialogue is real. The characters are real.
2. If creativity is a part of your being, this book describes the highs and lows, exhilaration and desperation of creating something/anything. I've just never read anything where the author got it so right.
3. The narration is perfect. Spot on.

This is a stunning debut. There's something really special about it. I was reminded me of another terrific debut from a dozen years ago -- Marisha Pessl's "Special Topics in Calamity Physics."

12 people found this helpful

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4.68 stars....easily one of the best this year

If you are thinking about listening to this title, do it. The Animators is original and extremely good. The narration is flawless. Kayla Rae Whitaker and Alex McKenna make the perfect combination. There's plenty going on in this novel, no matter which genre you normally prefer. This is one of my favorites of 2018. Top Notch.....

Overall rating: 4.68 stars

12 people found this helpful

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Rough beginning but Stick With It

When I started this book, it felt like just another of those ever popular young-angst-in-the-big-city books, and I almost quit it, multiple times. But then some surprises happened and it got real. Very real. I ended up loving it. Glad I stuck With it. Narrator was excellent.

11 people found this helpful

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Not chick-lit.

I assumed that a female writer, writing about friendship, would have a sappy handle on the story. I was so incredibly wrong. This story is gritty and painful at times. It is not a quick read, which is why I downloaded the audio to assist. It is an immersive story that takes time to absorb. The reader has no idea how to pronounce "Caudill" as it would be pronounced in east Ky. Beyond that, stellar job!

8 people found this helpful

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Excellent!

Any additional comments?

I loved "The Animators". It is so raw. I actually felt like I was listening to a memoir rather than a novel. Excellent narration by Alex McKenna. This was so out of my normal listening range, BUT I Loved it!

7 people found this helpful

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This is a story about much more than cartoons

I'm not a big fan of animation, animé, manga, comics, or even graphic novels, but I decided to take a friend's recent advice and choose a book by its cover. Luckily for me, The Animators contained an interesting and well-told story within its covers. Two women, Melody Vaught and Sharon Kisses, meet in college and become friends and partners in animating short films that tell the stories of their lives. Both women grew up in almost unbelievably awful families, and Mel and Sharon are both grateful to find another person that understands them so well.

"I don’t know if it was the cartoons themselves, or watching them with Mel, but that night was the closest I had felt to knowing what I wanted from my life. 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."

Sharon and Mel's long-lived collaboration and deep friendship results in some career success, but they also face personal dangers inherent in accepting the things your soulmate does, especially if those things are destructive behaviors. This is an original story, with humor, unexpected drama, interesting musings about art, some incredible dysfunction, and lots of great writing about trust, friendship, and healing.

6 people found this helpful

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Amazing on so many levels

I have more than 600 titles in my Audible library and this is the only one thus far that I have felt compelled to write a review about.

It grabbed me with its authentic feeling characters and vivid storytelling. It refused to let me go until the very end.

The narrator was so perfect that I am glad I got it on Audible rather than reading it in print. The author has perfected the art of making a reader/listener laugh and sob at the same time. I truly can't recommend this book enough!

5 people found this helpful

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Fabulous

This is one of the best books I've read in many a book. Love Mel.

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As annoying as the TV test signal

I had high hopes for this one. Two women collaborators in a male-dominated industry? I'm in. But it starts slow, the characters are a quarter of an inch deep, unlikeable, and most unforgivably, dull to the core. The best thing about this book is the cover. I even gave it a second chance, but within minutes it lulled me into a stupor.

4 people found this helpful

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Great story, obnoxious narration.

Any additional comments?

I had to turn this off... I couldn't deal with the voice the narrator used for one of the two main characters, which is such a shame because the story is fantastic! The narrator's real voice is pleasant to listen to, but "Mel's voice" - painfully gravelly and wrought with vocal fry - was like nails on a chalkboard.I gave up on the Audible version, but purchased the book, which is GREAT.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Jess Kyle
  • 11-20-19

It’s okay but....

A little self indulgent, and doesn’t really go anywhere. Towards the end I was looking for some sort of message from the book, yet there wasn’t one. It was also really long and drawn out at the end. I was waiting for it to finish.

Positives of the book include a good narration and up until the half way through point it was enjoyable- it left you wonder where it was going. It’s only towards the latter part of the book that it begins to dawn on you that it isn’t really going anywhere. Up until this point you forgave the self indulgent nature of the book, putting down to character development, but it unfortunately never really evolves beyond that.

In summary, it’s a slow start that begins to pick up and become interesting only to plummet into a looooong drawn out ending and over all, it is unbelievable as a story. Whilst the book wasn’t terrible, I certainly would t recommend it and would never consider reading it again.

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  • Sarah
  • 04-17-17

Great book, great reading

This was one of the most original and engaginf stories I have read for a long time. Fantastic characters, surprising plot, engaging dialogue and FANTASTIC narration .