His art is all over the streets of Melbourne: yellow birds lying belly up, a girl with grass growing from her heart, a flat white “disappointed sea”, and others. His alias is Shadow, and Year 12 aspiring artist Lucy Dervish is convinced that he’s the one for her. She’s been looking for him all over the city but Shadow, along with his wordy partner-in-art Poet, are determined to remain anonymous. So when she and her bestfriends Jazz and Daisy meet Ed and his mates Leo and Dylan she can’t refuse Ed’s offer to show her where Shadow’s been, despite the embarrassing past they share. What ensues is one packed night of misunderstandings, realizations and honest, bare art which turns out to be the telling key to unveiling Shadow and unlocking Lucy’s heart.
Beautiful, expressive, quirky, a little bit heartbreaking and a lot hopeful, I breezed through Graffiti Moon. The characters were real and endearing and the sharp dialogue, lyrical prose, and tight plot were thoughtfully composed. Lucy, in her quest to find her ideal boy is completely relatable and Ed, in his despondent resignation and raw expression is someone for whom you can’t resist rooting. The story is told from the rewound, overlapping perspectives of Ed and Lucy interspersed with poems by Leo and I love that we are able to hear both Ed and Lucy’s reactions to the particularly revelatory moments. And at the conclusion when their story comes full circle, far from being cliché or stilted it’s cleverly done. Part Nick and Norah’s Playlist, part crazy John Green adventure and part mistaken identity a la You’ve Got Mail, Graffiti Moon is authentic. It’s the sort of teen movie that should be made except that it would sorely be lacking the poetic writing, which is at times arresting. An early excerpt from Ed’s point-of-view:
I spray the sky fast. Eyes ahead and behind. Looking for cops. Looking for anyone I don’t want to be here. Paint sails and the things that kick in my head scream from can to brick. See this, see this, see this. See me emptied onto a wall.
First thing I ever painted was a girl. Second thing I ever painted was a doorway on a brick wall. Went on to paint huge doorways. Moved on to skies. Open skies painted above painted doorways and painted birds skimming across bricks trying to fly away. Little bird, what are you thinking? You come from a can.
There are so many more lovely passages where that came from, and some of the spoilerly ones are the best. From the bright neon yellow spray paint to the streetwise title font and the stark black background, Graffiti Moon lives up to its striking cover. I’m thrilled it has been picked up by a US publisher for February 2012 and I will definitely be seeking out Cath Crowley’s A Little Wanting Song, which has already been published in the US.