4.5 out of 5 starsSometimes in the book obsessed life you find a book that leaves a novel shaped hole in your heart. You continue to seek something comparable, something to fill the void left by no longer reading that book, but instead it becomes the novel you constantly compare everything else to.
For the last year that novel has been Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. Though I have loved many books since I first read Jellicoe Road, nothing compares to the soul-crushing, sweeping, pile of emotions that it gave me.
Graffiti Moon comes close. Being compared to Jellicoe Road is like a medal of honor that I don't give very lightly. In fact I don't think I've ever given it before. But like Marchetta novels, Graffiti Moon somehow realistically captures what it means to be human. It's sometime painful, sometimes beautiful and always hopeful.
Grafitting Moon is an eloquent book. The emotive language is wonderful, never purple and always heartfelt. Crowley says things in ways that I've never thought of but makes perfect sense. It's simple words, no thesaurus needed, but somehow says everything she needs to and more. The passage below is where I knew I was falling in love.
"I liked that he had hair that was growing without a plan. A smile that came out nowhere and left the same way. That he was tall enough so that I had to look up to him in my dream sequences."
I don't know if I've ever read a description quite like it. This book was already stealing my heart but when I read those words I melted. MELTED, not for Ed, not for Shadow or Poet but for this novel. Melted for someone putting into words what I've felt but never been able to say.
The story follows 6 teenagers celebrating the last night of year 12. There's Lucy--artistic, thru and thru--with Jane Austen romantic ambitions, Jazz her psychic somewhat wild best friend, Daisy who needs a break from her boyfriend, Dylan said clueless boyfriend, Ed and Leo. On a final night of misadventures they're going on a quest to find Shadow and Poet, 2 elusive graffiti artists.
Artistic Lucy feels like Shadow is the only person who might understand her, that he can be Mr. Darcy to her Elizabeth. She's tired of the mundane world of high school and arse-grabbers. Lucy wants sunsets, starry nights and someone who sees into her soul.
Jazz, celibate for 6 months due to final exams, wants to kiss a boy and celebrate the end of her childhood. Daisy is along for the ride, needing something different after being egged by her boyfriend earlier that day. Dylan comes along because he doesn't want to lose Daisy. Leo's curiousity is piqued by Jazz. Ed is somehow dragged into all of their plots against his will.
Normally I skeptical of books that use alternating POVs between boy and girl characters. Generally speaking I think it's an overdone gimmick, a writerly easy road to romance. In Graffiti Moon the different POVs are necessary and well done. They actually serve a purpose that advances the story.
This book involves art and poetry without feeling pretentious. It's just who these kids are. They still have real world problems like rent, broken families, unsure futures, and it keeps the story grounded. Lucy & Ed (who become the main characters) are so painfully cool that I'm just a tiny bit jealous. But they're also real and relatable.
Jazz and I made lists of people we'd do it with once. She looked over mine. "Yours are all fictional characters."
When I read that passage I thought "Lucy I have SO been there," and I think most avid readers will relate to the sentiment. That's something everyone has felt. That there has to be something better that what's right in front of us.
Graffiti Moon is genuine and heartfelt in a way that most books aren't. What happens over the course of the novel could occur on many continents, many time periods, to many people. We've all had weird misadventures, nights with friends that have changed us, the moments of our youth we remember fondly despite all the real life that's happened since. This book captures all the best parts of the teenage experience without glorifying or overreaching. It's a story of one great night with grand implications, but it doesn't tell us what will happen next. There isn't a message. There's just life, played out beautifully on the pages in front you. It's messy. It's wonderful. But most importantly it's real.