The conflict around separating art from the artist gets a scintillating new entry with The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker. Mel Vaught and Sharon Kisses are two young women who have shot to success as animators with a film that is largely based on Mel’s life. After receiving a Hollingsworth grant, they get a call that Mel’s mother has passed away in Flordia. The two women, who recently hit an extreme bump in their relationship, come together to pick up her mom’s affects. However a tragic medical emergency forces Sharon to reevaluate her life and the recovery ends up leading them to their next project, revealing more about her life and backstory.

I had to walk a fine line above to limit the amount of information about the plot because it really is wonderful to see how these women’s stories unfold within the book. Whitaker manages to make even the most cliched, Hollywood style moments feel real and the real moments feel even deeper. Everything is wrapped around these artists trying to find inspiration for their next project and how their personal lives wrap around that pursuit, for better and worse.

Coming off this election, it was nice to read a book about nasty women and not having the book pull any punches. Mel and Sharon are a mess, gifted artists, yet incredibly messy people in very distinct ways. Whitaker is a master of character, everyone in this book leaps off the page in wonderful ways. I loved that she doesn’t hold back with regards to how nasty people can get, but also never fails to give them reasons for acting the way you do. I could have kept reading more about these women and how complicated their lives have been/could be.

The Animators arrives in bookstores on January 31.