Drawn That Way
Drawn That Way by Elissa Sussman is a young adult novel very of our time. It’s about creativity and industry sexism and who gets to make entertainment and finding (or making) a supportive community.
Hayley dreams of nothing but creating animation for genius director Bryan Beckett’s studio. As a high school senior, being selected as one of the 40 summer interns is a dream come true. But there are a number of snags… The director’s estranged son is one of the interns, and it’s pretty clear that he’s getting special treatment, in spite of his apparent disinterest in the whole thing. There aren’t many women on the staff of the studio, particularly in decision-making roles. Hayley’s ideas are overlooked, with lesser quality projects by boys selected instead. And finally, when she gets that coveted one-on-one time with Beckett, his inaccurate assumptions about her get in the way.
Hayley is young and naive, so this reader was well aware of what was going on before she was. At times, I was waiting for her to stop internalizing her problems and realize that there might be bigger issues at play, and that her idealized and idolized creator had severe problems. But that’s part of her journey, coming to understand that it’s not all up to her — and the way she finally learns to stop despising the other young women in the program is significant. She comes to value community and shake off her imposed assumptions about how creators are supposed to act, stereotypes created by insecure, overly coddled, immature men.
The individual moments and examples of sexism are believable, particularly if you’ve paid any attention at all to the animation field, particularly what happened at Pixar. Sussman worked for some of the biggest animation studios before writing this book, so she knows the setting very well.
My favorite part of the novel was how it managed to show Hayley’s love of creating in a way that she could maintain. Getting work done without losing yourself, as part of a balanced life, is a healthier approach, even if it’s one that isn’t always supported by the industry as it stands. Stories like these give me hope that that can and will change.
(The publisher provided an advance review copy.)