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The Plain Janes (Minx) Library Binding – September, 2007

4 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Janes Series

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 7–10—Young adult author Castellucci makes her graphic-novel debut with this quirky comic. Jane's parents relocate to the suburbs when she's caught in a bomb attack in Metro City. Bored and lonely in her new town and school, the teen is thrilled when she meets three other girls named Jane, all of them as out of place as she is. They form a secret club, the Plain Janes, and decide to liven up the town with art. Some people like their work, but most are frightened, and the local police call the Plain Janes' work "art attacks." Castellucci gives each girl a distinct personality, and spirited, compassionate Main Jane is especially captivating. Rugg's drawings aren't in superhero or manga style, but resemble the more spare, clean style of alternative comics creators such as Dan Clowes and Craig Thompson. A thoughtful look at the pressures to conform and the importance of self-expression, this is also a highly accessible read. Regular comics readers will enjoy it, but fans of soul-searching, realistic young adult fiction should know about it as well.—Lisa Goldstein, Brooklyn Public Library, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* For the first book in a new series aimed at teenage girls, DC comics recruited novelist Castellucci (Boy Proof, 2004, and The Queen of Cool, 2005) to write this story about outsiders who come together, calling up themes from the author's popular YA novels. Relocated to suburbia after a brush with disaster in the big city (and fueled by an urge not to be terrified of the world as a result), Jane rallies a small group of outcasts into a team of "art terrorists," shaking the town from its conservative complacency by putting bubbles in the city fountain and wrapping objects on the street as Christmas packages. Their activities end up rallying the local teenagers to their cause and working the adults into a dither. The book has its share of stereotypes--the science geek, the psychotically overprotective mother, the irrepressible gay teen--but this is thought-provoking stuff. The art, inspired by Dan Clowes' work, is absolutely engaging. Packaged like manga this is a fresh, exciting use of the graphic-novel format. Jesse Karp
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Minx
  • Library Binding
  • Publisher: Paw Prints 2007-09-01 (September 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1435209885
  • ISBN-13: 978-1435209886
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,535,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gayle F. Moffet on August 31, 2008
Format: Paperback
I'm a 25-year-old female comics fan, and I've been impressed with the "Minx" line [I've read "Re-Gifters", "Kimmie66", "Confessions of a Blabbermouth", "Good as Lily", and "Clubbing"]. I was really looking forward to "The Plain Janes", given my previous enjoyment of the rest of the line. I was sadly mistaken.

The biggest issue with "The Plain Janes" is that every character who is not the central character is completely one-dimensional. All of the adults are cardboard cut-outs who scream, freak out, and are otherwise completely unreasonable. The other students each have one particular trait [sporty, nerdy, theater geek, gay, good-looking, popular] and that's about it. Even the main character isn't terribly well-rounded, as all she seems to do is freak out, not freak out, and talk about how awesome it is that she's brought art to the obviously lacking suburb which she lives.

The pseudo-9/11 plot does nothing for this book except drag it down. It's overused to the point of being boring, and all it does is set up a couple of ridiculous scenes where Jane's mother yells at her, and then Jane acts surprised when she's grounded for sneaking out of the house and hitchhiking nine hours to check on a John Doe she writes to at the hospital.

This book needed a better writer. Mike Carey, who wrote "Confessions of a Blabbermouth" and "Re-Gifters" should have been given this book. He writes teenagers much more realistically than Cecil Castellucci and does so in a way that doesn't make the adults come off as horrible, useless things that are just out to stop the teenagers from having a good time.

Read the rest of the "Minx" line, or buy it for the teenage girl in your life, but let this one rot on the shelf.
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Format: Paperback
First off, I'll give you a little disclaimer. I'm a 21 year old male, so this book really wasn't written for me at all, but as a writer and fan of comics, I decided to give it a try.

The story is interesting, but Castellucci has a bit of a problem with dialog. The characters really sound like they were written, not how they would talk. It all just has a bit of an exposition feel to it the entire way through.

Rugg's art is effective here, but not all that impressive. It doesn't detract from the story being told, but I also thought it didn't really enhance it

Now, onto the characters. This is where I had the biggest problem with things. The main character of Jane is pretty well nuanced and rounded, but every other character in the book is just a stereotypical cardboard cutout of a cliched character type. The police officer is always screaming, the gay male character is always being so incredibly effeminate it's off-putting, the drama crazed Jane is constantly speaking as if here words were pulled directly from Shakespeare. This is an OK template to build a character off of, but absolutely nobody acts like this in real life. I could understand the use of character types like this in a book designed for children, but I would think that teenagers would desire something a little more dynamic

One other criticism here, and this just really smacks of a first time comic book writer. How in the world does Jane get a phone that automatically picks up and broadcasts in speakerphone without any input from the user? This is absolutely ridiculous, and I really think that it's a very visible crutch that Castellucci uses more than once in the story

All in all though, despite all of my critiques, I mildly enjoyed the book...it's not nearly the worst thing I've ever read, but it just didn't resonate for me. I would like to see what Castellucci can do in the future, but she's going to have to improve over her debut.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I just got--and read--Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg's graphic novel THE PLAIN JANES yesterday afternoon. What a wonderful book. I loved the characters and the ideas. I loved the art. I liked how clean the pages felt, and how so much of the story seemed to be told in the pictures. I kept flipping back in the pictures to gather more information.

Art is important. I think sometimes about how millenia ago, when survival was far more difficult and people spent most of every day trying to get food and shelter, but still, they created art. It is a need, to do more than survive, to leave a mark in the world, to do something that is just for the beauty of it. Sometimes we forget that, but it seems the most extreme experiences help us remember.
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Format: Paperback
I'm a 27-year-old male, but I could relate to the characters in The Plain Janes. I could especially relate to the protagonist, Jane. Or should I say Main Jane?

Art was an outlet of expression, an outlet of relaxation, for me during high school. Seeing the Janes create art everywhere, as an escapsim from the world, was very interesting. I wish I would have thought of that.

I want to commend the creators of this graphic novel. It was 45-minute read that was better than any television show I saw this week and well worth my money.

Pick up this book if you're interested in fun literature -- and be glad to be P.L.A.I.N.
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After a bomb attack in Metro City Jane's parents move to the suburbs and take her away from all that she knows. Bored and lonely at her new school, Jane attempts to make friends with three other girls also named Jane. She has to do something for each of them, but they quickly form a secret club called the "Plains Janes" and decide to add some excitement to the town with some random secret art projects throughout the town. Some of the people in the town like the secret art projects others call them vandals. When the police get involved what will happen? Will the town turn on the girls or will they embrace the style they've brought to them?

The story is of course meant to draw comparisons to 9/11, but more than that its meant to tell about a young girl trying to fit into a new place and a new world during some of the most difficult years of a young persons life, the dreaded teenage years. Castellucci does a fairly good job of telling the story and making each Jane feel like a unique person. But at times they seem to resemble more of an individual trait than a complete person. It detracts from the story a bit, especially since the supporting characters don't have much depth to them. The artwork is simply drawn and seemingly draws more inspiration from Scott McCloud, than from superhero comics or Manga. It works well with the story and doesn't try to overwhelm the reader with too many details.

Overall it's not a bad read and would be a good book for the teenage crowd, even with its faults. More mature readers might want to look at other books, such as Bryan Lee O'Malley or Hope Larson's works for more depth to characters.
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