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The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci

The Plain Janes (2007)

by Cecil Castellucci, Jim Rugg

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8266910,967 (3.86)36
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Recommended by PWF and Lauren B

Jane's parents decide to move the family from Metro City to suburbia after a bombing that Jane narrowly escaped. Jane misses the vibrant culture of the city and is determined to insinuate herself into the people she identifies as "her tribe" at her new high school. Though they (Jane, Jayne, and Polly Jane) are reluctant at first, the four of them start to carry out stealth public art projects, signing them P.L.A.I.N. (People Loving Art in Neighborhoods).

The P.L.A.I.N. projects are admired by some, but feared by others; the police call them "art attacks" and vandalism. Jane is happy to have found friends and a project, but she still writes letters to John Doe, a bombing victim she used to visit in the hospital, and she still wishes her mother weren't so fearful ("Mom doesn't see the beauty in anything anymore. She only sees danger"). When her letters to John Doe are returned to sender, she gets a ride with her crush, Damon, back to Metro City to find out what happened to him.

The Plain Janes was a quick, enjoyable read. It blends everyday teen issues (moving, making friends at a new school, overprotective parents) with larger, traumatic ones (the bombing) and the culture of fear that trauma creates. Jane deals with all of these issues, and art plays a large role in her life as she does so.


"It's like I'm asking the world to keep me safe by making them pause for just one minute." (letter to John Doe)

And when you see a kindred spirit, you should invite them to your table.

"Maybe, just maybe, art does save. I think it's saving me." (letter to John Doe)

It's a fact of life. Hearts are always hurting. And yet they still keep pumping.

"Tell me, [John Doe]. If I do something beautiful and no one else sees it, is it still worth doing?" ( )
  JennyArch | May 12, 2015 |
This was a great one day read. The story does not focus so much on the tragic event experienced by the main Jane, but more how she recovers and redefines herself afterwards. I think this is a very empowering book for both boys and girls and teaches them how to not let circumstances or events define you. I'm not sure how I would use this in curriculum, but it is one that I happily recommend to students looking for a good graphic novel. ( )
  Maggie.Goff | Feb 26, 2015 |
Really enjoyed this.
  devafagan | Jan 2, 2015 |
A bit on the silly and simplistic side, but very amusing. ( )
  swampygirl | Dec 9, 2013 |
Review from library copy.

Meh. ( )
  kcarrigan | Aug 26, 2013 |
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The characterization is stronger than the plotting, and while the theme of learning to process change as a part of growing up is nothing new, the soul’s need for art isn’t emphasized as often. The end of the book doesn’t live up to the power of the beginning, but that’s true of much entertainment these days.
A funny, spirited little story about a gang of girls named Jane at a strait-laced high-school, rejected by the mainstream, and their art adventures.
added by lampbane | editBoing Boing, Cory Doctorow (May 22, 2007)

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Cecil Castellucciprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rugg, Jimmain authorall editionsconfirmed
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To all you Dandelions.
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Metro City. Last Spring. When it happened, I fell.
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When Jane moves to the suburbs, she thinks her life is over, but she meets three friends who form a club P.L.A.I.N.E., but can art really save a group of misfits from high school?

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