Tuesday 7 January 2020

The PLAIN Janes - Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg - 3 in 1 Edition

The Plain Janes
Janes 1-3
Cecil Castellucci (Author)
Jim Rugg (Illustrator)
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN 9780316522724 HC
ISBN 9780316522816 PB
eISBN 9780316522748

This is a book nearly a decade in the making. Cecil and Jim collaborated on the first two Janes stores in 2007 and 2008. And had a third planned. And it never happened. I interviewed Cecil in 2010 and the working title of a third story at that point was Janes Go Summer. In this finally released three in one edition the title of the third instalment is Janes Attack Back. So the sections in this volume are:

The PLAIN Janes
Janes in Love
Janes Attack Back.

The first two were previously release as single volumes and were done with color coves and the artwork was black and white and grey-scale. In this edition each of the three stories are in a different monochromatic scale. Part 1 is blue, part 2 is fuchsia and part three is green. And this new edition is being simultaneously release in hard cover, paperback and digitally. I went back and check my reading log and I have read both of the first two volumes 10 times. I reread them nearly once a year since I discovered them. And now I will likely be reading this new edition annually. When this book arrived I read it immediately. And it did not disappoint. And I have already started reading it a second time with my oldest daughter who is 13. I can’t wait to find out what she thinks of the Janes.

The Janes are:
Jane - DramaticJane
Jayne - BrainJayne
Polly Jane - SportyJane
Jane - MainJane

Part I: The PLAIN Janes

The story is set shortly after 9/11 and features a girl, Jane, who was near one of the blasts. Her whole life is turned upside down. He parents move her to a small town. Her mother is not getting better from the shock of 9/11; she is getting more frightened, and protective and a little paranoid. Jane was popular and in the 'in crowd' at her old school in the city. Here she decided to make conscious changes; she joins the outcast, a group of Plain Janes. And they use Art as therapy and as a way of understanding themselves and the world around them. 

Part II: Janes in Love

MainJane is still dealing with the aftermath of being near ground zero of a terrorist attack. She is getting better but her mother is getting worse. All of Janes' art is an attempt to bring her mother back out of her shell. The Janes get in trouble for their public art. But decide to try and work with the system. This one does go into greater depth about relationships and overcoming adversity.

Part III Janes Attack Back

This story starts with the girls doing art installations in the park. They want to expand to more public spaces but the city threatens to take even the park they have. So then compromise. This causes them to start losing focus and the edge to their art. Then each of them ends up going a different way for the summer. When they come back MainJane hopes her renewed passion is carried by the group, but that at first does not seem to be the case. They are preparing for university the next year. And life is busier than ever. A New girl at school really clashes with MainJane even though she is an artist. They are very different in their styles and approach. But they end up feeding off each other and inspiring each other. And in the end it comes down to a showdown with the city of the art space, and keeping it around for others to take over.

In this edition you get not only three complete incredible stories you get a whole lot more. There is a wonderful forward by Mariko Tamaki. Between part 1 and 2 there is original concept art for Main Jane. Between parts 2 and 3 there is a section called ‘The Evolution of a Graphic Novel’  with a full page to each of the four steps. Then we are treated to original cover sketches, and 8 evolutions of cover options. And the book ends with other artists renditions of the Janes including: Joshua Middleton, Sophie Campbell, Becky Cloonan, Cliff Chiang, Tom Scioli and Philip Bond.

When I reviewed the first one 10 years ago I stated: “The story is great. It has a message every high school student and maybe every adult could learn from. It is incredibly well written and Jim Rugg did an amazing job illustrating the story. I have a feeling this will become one of those books I read annually because there will be more I can get from it each time I read it.” It has proved true and I am sure will be even more so with this third instalment added. I would love to see what happens to the Janes in University, or even after. But to finally have the third Janes story is a blessing and a treasure. If you have read either of the others you must pick up this to find out how the story continues. And if you have not it is an incredible read. 

Books by Cecil Castellucci:
Boy Proof (2005)
The Queen of Cool (2006)

Beige (2007)
The P.L.A.I.N. Janes (2007)

Janes in Love (2008)
Geektastic (Editor & Contributor 2009)
Rose Sees Red (2010)
Grandma's Gloves (2010)

First Day On Earth (2011)

Odd Duck (2013)
Tin Star (2014)

Stone in the Sky (2015)
The Plain Janes 3 in 1 (2020)

Music By Cecil Castellucci
Twist Her - Nerdy Girl (1996)
Whoever - Cecil Seaskull (1998)


A Visual Bibliography for Cecil Castellucci
Author profile interview with Cecil Castellucci

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