Knopf Books for Young Readers
This is another of the books my awesome parents brought back from Australia, but I'm pretty sure it's now out in the US also. I'd heard so much good about it, right up to the point that it was everything great about contemporary YA, that I went into it optimistic but wary. I was pleasantly surprised with just how good it is and how well it stacks up to the praise others have given it. Told in Lucy and Ed's rotating POVs, there's a lot that the reader knows even though the characters don't. Lucy and Ed's relationship doesn't fall into any easily defined category that I can come up with. Though they have a history together, they start out hating each other and get to know each other better as the night wears on. Lucy's single-minded plan to find Shadow means that she overlooks and misses a lot of what's right in front of her, and this awkward, dramatic secret-keeping is part of what makes the book so incredibly enjoyable to read. (In case you missed it -- and this isn't a spoiler -- Ed is Shadow.) I really love books where characters have secrets from one another, especially secrets that, like in Ed's case, have a huge bearing on their relationship with another character.
Lucy's family situation and Ed's future are other big focuses of Graffiti Moon and both of these aspects are written so well, with multiple layers and plenty of realistic complexity. Lucy's parents no longer live together (her dad has moved into the shed) and their looming divorce weighs heavy on her mind, casting a shadow over everything else in her life. I've so rarely seen divorce, or at least the possibility of it, explored in-depth in a YA novel. I loved that it was written about here because I think it's something that would affect a child no matter how old they are. Lucy's attachment to her parents and her reaction to their unorthodox living arrangement made me just as hurt and confused as she was -- a great feat. Ed, on the other hand, is struggling with losing his job and not knowing what he's going to do with the rest of his life after dropping out of school. He can barely read (or as his friend says, "you can read, it just takes you a long time to sort out the words") and what this means for his life and his relationships is something he's struggling to work out. This part of the book, of Ed's character, is something that I loved so, so much. It's such a real issue and having an obviously passionate, smart, flat-out awesome character think of himself as stupid because of his reading troubles is something that really got to me.
The issues presented in this book are unusual -- but definitely refreshing and needed, I think -- in YA, which makes it stand out from the crowd. I loved that the entire story took place over the course of one night (because I love nighttime settings) and the plot/pacing worked perfectly for this. I was surprised at just how good the writing was, though too often the voices of Ed and Lucy blend together. Too many times I had to check the chapter to remind myself which character's side I was reading, unfortunately. Because of this and little things like Lucy's too typical rebel-girl best friend, I didn't totally love the book, but I definitely liked it a whole whole lot and have no problem recommending it all over the place. Fans of contemporary YA: this is just different enough and surprising enough to warrant a place on your shelves.