Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
Alfred A. Knopf, 2012 (2010 in Australia)
hardcover, 257 pages. contemporary teen fiction.
tagline: an artist, a dreamer, a long, mean, night
a little wanting song guaranteed I would be reading more of Cath Crowley’s work. I took me a bit of time to get a hold of a copy of Graffiti Moon, and it was well worth the wait–not that I would recommend any body who likes good contemporary teen fiction wait, especially if they like romantic comedy and/or art.
Senior year is over, and Lucy has the perfect way to celebrate: tonight, she’s going to find Shadow, the mysterious graffiti artist whose work appears all over the city. He’s out there somewhere—spraying color, spraying birds and blue sky on the night—and Lucy knows a guy who paints like Shadow is someone she could fall for. Really fall for. Instead, Lucy’s stuck at a party with Ed, the guy she’s managed to avoid since the most awkward date of her life. But when Ed tells her he knows where to find Shadow, they’re suddenly on an all-night search around the city. And what Lucy can’t see is the one thing that’s right before her eyes.—publisher’s comments
It’s a bit of a case of You’ve Got Mail except the cute meet has an amusing twist; a bit of Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, but different. Told in alternating narrators (Lucy and Ed and with poems by Leo), the Cath Crowley’s Graffiti Moon spans the night following Lucy and cohorts’ completion of year twelve. The occasion for overlays were so nice and really exemplified Crowley crafting of three very individual narrators.
Lucy is roped into an evening out with her best friend Jazz and she decides to make the best of it by finally meeting Shadow. Jazz eyes Leo with interest and the feeling is mutual, but that means Ed has to come along. Even so, Leo has an early morning date with crime that he is obliged to make and Ed is (again) set to help out his friend. So the passing of time is marked as they travel about, looking and talking about the graffiti art/ist; which is not tedious reading in the least. If anything, it would be fun to reference the images/artists Lucy and Ed talk about as they talk about it. Love that Rothko is a featured inspiration.
Graffiti Moon could be accused of creating a cast of quirky characters foreign to the novel’s audience for mere entertainment, but the verisimilitude will be striking—I hope, because it would depressing if they were not. Okay, so some of the problems at home may resonate, and that isn’t a happy-making thought, but young people dreaming and passionate about artful things is. Ed may do graffiti, but Leo does the poetry, and Lucy is a budding glass blower and in certain company sharing their passion for art is okay. But not everyone gets it and that comes into play. Being able to be oneself and find your mode of expression is paramount, survivalist even, and both relationships and individuals operate in unique ways (e.g. Lucy’s parents).
The choice of art, the graffiti for Ed and the glass for Lucy are nice choices, nicely used and well-articulated. I was especially charmed by Crowley’s sense of humor and her own artful ways with the craft of writing. I enjoyed a turn of phrase time and again and laughed outright a time or seven. It is fun that N read it because I had to merely reference a moment and we were laughing over it again together. I am smiling just now thinking about the hijinks with the bicycle. And yep, the get-away van…
Graffiti Moon isn’t all sweetness like I’m worrying that I am making it sound. Lucy is pretty cute if not frustratingly naïve at times. The romancing isn’t easy nor is it necessarily every character’s immediate concern: at least, not with their pairing. Crowley layers in quite a bit of character history and personal conflicts in these 257 pages, not all of it pleasant (especially for Ed and Leo). For a story set on that edge of a future, some of the images appear bleak, certainly messy. I like the messiness of the characters and the relationships (except the threatening, bloodletting parts) not just because it makes them interesting reading, but because it makes for characters who actually change—and one night’s progress would’ve failed Graffiti Moon if not for Crowley’s sense of story. (As for the threatening, bloodletting parts, that was good dramatic effect and who doesn’t love Ed and Lucy all the more after the park encounter?)
Crowley’s energetic launch into story, her humor and deft handling of character there in the first chapters invest the reader into an adventurous night that only gets better and better. I could say that you could find morning having experience a light-weight’s rush of adventure, but there is too much heart for that and I should think that no reader could leave Graffiti Moon unaffected in some way.
recommendation: high school and upwards, boys and girls alike. lovers of art, contemporary drama that isn’t too sticky, romantic comedy, art, and swoon-worthy kinds of characters even when they can still be asses at times.
my review of a little wanting song (U.S. print: Knopf, 2010)
* had I read Cath Crowley’s “about” page I would have known she was my kind of person from the start.