Title: Graffiti Moon
Author: Cath Crowley
Genre: young-adult, contemporary
Pages: 267 (Nook version, uncorrected ARC)
Published: originally August 2010 - expected republication February 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Source: publishers via NetGalley
tagline: an artist, a dreamer
a long mean night
I didn't just read Aussie author Cath Crowley's novel - I inhaled it. I read the entire two hundred sixty seven page novel in just under a three hour period; I couldn't put it down to eat, play with the dogs or even move from my desk to the reading chair. It's gripping, consuming and alive in a way very few stories are - and more should be. I want to pull huge sections from the narrative to quote - my whole review would be quotes if I were clever enough. This is, simply put, a beautiful book - beautifully written, carried, developed and ended. Graffiti Moon is a young-adult novel that transcends the genre of its origin; all ages of readers who appreciate a deftly woven, compelling read would treasure this book. It's brilliantly descriptive and full of evocative and moving imagery. This book moved me.
The story begins and ends with Lucy, a teenage girl who just wants to find something real; a boy that she can understand, one that likes what moves her in her core: art. Out of a graffiti artist known only as 'Shadow', Lucy creates her dream guy - one that is perfect for her and utterly unlike the fellow from the one date she's ever had ("I spent the weekend after our date wishing I could stab him with my Fluffy Duck pen and staring at the phone hoping he'd call. Dating is a very tricky business.") Lucy is distinctive and an incredibly relatable character; almost every part of her narrative sent a wave of remembrance or nostalgia for my own teenage years into my head. Crowley captures the feel, the urgency and frailty of teens perfectly - Lucy is vibrant, delightfully individualistic (one character asks her, "Are you doing that thing where you stare at the stars until your problems seem insignificant?"), but also vulnerable. Also, she is hilarious and just different ("'I sit down next to him and concentrate really hard. 'What are you doing?' he says. 'Trying to bend the laws of time so I can get here five minutes earlier.'") See - told you I want to quote the whole book at you. Every line is perfect, every chapter moves at just the right pace, every character nuanced and interesting.
Ed, both the unbeknownst-to-Lucy Shadow and the one she would desire to stab with a pen for the bad date, was my absolute favorite character. I loved Lucy, but Ed came alive for me as a reader. He's the secretly creative, artsy guy, hiding behind the stereotypical 'tough guy/hard case', when he's truly something much more. Being a typical teenage girl, Lucy does not see the wonderful, deep man in front of her, only seeing the hard edges and the wall around his heart. The only way Ed can express himself is through his painting ("See this, see this, see this. See me emptied onto a wall."), and boy does he. The descriptions of Ed's art were animated and alive. It's almost a compulsion Ed cannot stop; after losing Lucy, his father-figure Bert, and his mom-supporting job, Ed has only painting as an outlet for his pain. He sees himself as a "painted ghost trapped in a jar," one of the more revealing self-portraits Ed paints. Ed's quiet but intensely personal heartbreak and desperation are in sharp contrast to Lucy's more stable life, though her need to belong draws her to Shadow.
The two main background characters, that of Lucy's best friend Jazz and Ed's cohort in crime/best friend Leo were also pleasant, if not as fully developed. Jazz was a splash of whimsy and crazy, and Leo was a more romantic exploration of the same problems as Ed. I appreciated the functional, healthy friendship depicted between the two girls (and another, Daisy). I grow very tired of the catty teen girl in fiction, and this kind of believable and genuine bond is a nice change of pace. As for Ed's best friend/occasional roommate Leo, I liked him well enough, but I must admit his (admittedly rare) poem POV's were the weakest parts of the novel. I had a favorite poem of "Poet"'s (Here, p. 242) but on the whole, I wished the POV had been limited to just Ed and Lucy. The "villain" of the novel is much reduced and serves as a mere plot point for the real story: that of looking beyond the exterior and seeing the beauty within. Since the novel takes place over a single night, the book moves at a brisk pace, but one that is extremely easy to fall into.
The final chapter is moving and beautiful - happily, without veering into saccharine territory or overt teenage melodrama. It's hopeful, without being absolutely definite and final. Lucy and Ed will go on - maybe with each other, maybe not, but hopefully together. While the pairing off of three couples might strain my credulity, one minor gripe against the face of all the awesome --- this is a book not to be missed. Major kudos from me to Ms. Crowley - this is something special, this is a novel I'm going to love forever. I received the NetGalley eBook, but when this is republished in February I will be buying my own copy to treasure and love.