Graffiti Moon

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

Lucy and her friends have just finished Year Twelve.  Her friends want to celebrate, but to Lucy, the only thing that would complete the night is finding the elusive Shadow, a local graffiti artist.  Lucy imagines that he’s someone special, someone who could really understand how important art is to her.  But Lucy’s friends are set on hanging out with boys – Daisy’s boyfriend Dylan and his buddies Ed and Leo.  As Jazz eyes up Leo, Lucy finds herself stuck with Ed, who she knows from an earlier failed date.  It is not how she wants to spend the night at all.

For their parts, the guys are caught up in something big.  They have to repay money owed to a neighborhood tough guy.  Trying to stir up romance while settling the details of a heist is a very tricky thing but they are certainly going to try.

Part of what makes Graffiti Moon special is the way artistic talent is seen as a gift and art honored as something worth pursuing.  Many of the characters show exceptional artistic talent, but although their talents are very different, each of them is valued for their abilities. Crowley makes it clear that book smarts are not the only type of intelligence a person can possess. This is an incredibly important and powerful message for teen readers. Because school is such a powerful force in the lives of young people, too often academic ability is revered while all other talents are demeaned as lesser.  Graffiti Moon will open the minds of some and provide much needed support and affirmation to others.

Crowley also does a beautiful job of showing nontraditional families.  There are a variety of family structures shown and they are all treated with respect.  Teens without a stable two parent household will latch on to the different ways the families in this book support each other, break apart and reform.

Life is messy and the teens in this book know that firsthand.  They make mistakes.  They make choices that adults in a position of safety and financial security would consider stupid or dangerous.  But it is clear at every turn that they are all just trying to do their best.  That at each juncture, they try to make the best decisions they can given the hand they’ve been dealt.  And sometimes that still means making a bad decision.  And sometimes it means trying to undo their mistakes.  And most of the time it means they need to trust people more.  I really appreciated how clearly you could understand their thought processes and their motivations.  And that’s all due to Crowley’s masterful writing.  Because in someone else’s hands, these kids are punks, or worthless or troublemakers.  But Graffiti Moon shows you that a person is not defined by bad decisions or mistakes or having a hard life.  There is no condescension here.  And the lessons learned are not those of falling hard or failing. They are about love and trust and finding your own path, whatever it may be.

Age Recommendation: If you don’t have a terrible opposition to swearing, this would be fine for Grades 7 and up.  But with the f-word puts you off, certainly you could wait until high school.

Great for: Is it clear how much I loved this book?  I would recommend it to anyone, especially readers that like a little romance and a bit of adventure.  But absolutely for every kid who has a talent or skill that is something other than “being successful at school”.

Sex, Nudity, Dating – People date and kiss. Couples break up.  A teen’s mother was a teenage mother herself. A teen grabs his date’s behind, she does not want or encourage this.  There are excellent descriptions of the feeling of having a crush and being somewhat obsessed with the object of your affection.  A teen imagines himself intertwined with his crush.  A teen says she felt “static electricity down there”.   A guy has been with “lots of girls”.  Teens flirt. Sex is discussed. Teens moon others from passing cars. A teen mimes masturbation. A teen tells someone he’s just met that they should “do it later”. A couple holds hands.  A couple had slept together.
Profanity – “fuck/fucking”, “shit”, “dick”, “arse”, obscene hand gestures are used, including the middle finger and the two-fingered reverse peace sign, which doesn’t have meaning in the US, but does in the UK and Australia. “piss”, “wanker”, “crap”, “damn”, rude suggestions are made about where someone can put something, “balls,””motherfucker”,
Death, Violence and Gore – A drunk threatens to kill people (this is not scary, just sounds like ranting). A teen says she kicks her boyfriend in the balls to get him to tell her the truth. There’s speculation that you might be decapitated if you stick your head out of a moving train.  One teen warns another to keep “the girls” away from a certain guy.  One of the characters loses someone important to him to a heart attack.  The circumstances surrounding the death and emotions resulting from it are continuously circled back upon.  Teens are threatened by a someone with a hammer.  He uses a compass point as a weapon, threatening to pierce someone’s nipple but ultimately to violently pierce someone’s ear. A teen has broken more than one person’s nose, once as a reaction to being touched when she did not want to be, later when threatened.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – A house smelled of cigarettes and tasted like beer (this is poetry, so the tasting part is not literal). Teens drink beer sometimes with adults.
Frightening or Intense Things – Teens engage in criminal activity.  One owes money to someone who is likely to cause him lots of problems if it is not repaid.  Risks are weighed versus the possibility of going to jail.  Teens plan to steal things.

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