YA Wednesday: Best of the Month in Young Adult
Happy February! Personally, I love the beginning of every month. Not only are there days of possibility ahead but we get to unveil the books we're most excited about--a.k.a. our four Best of the Month in Young Adult picks. As always it was tough to choose a spotlight title but in the end the honor goes to Graffiti Moon, a lyrical novel that I savored from beginning to end.
On the last night of the school year Lucy, Jazz, and Daisy decide to go on an adventure with three guys they know--Ed, Leo, and Dylan. From the get go Lucy isn't very enthusiastic about the evening ahead. She and Ed went out once a year earlier and it ended with her punching him in the face. They've not spoken since and Lucy has little interest reconvening for conversation until Ed claims to know Shadow, a well-known graffiti artist for whom Lucy is saving her affections. While Ed takes Lucy on a tour of Shadow's works they re-hash their disastrous date and bond over their shared love of art, forcing Lucy to wonder if what she really wants is already before her.
What was before author Cath Crowley after she finished the first draft of this novel? Something she didn't much like she admits in this exclusive Amazon essay about how Graffiti Moon came to be :
At first the characters went off in the wrong direction, and that was my fault. I had an idea for a voice that was sharp and angry, so I pushed them that way.
The first draft was called The Mean Night. It was set in a bleak landscape. Pollution ate stars. Lucy blew glass that shone like love, sure. But mostly she thought about how it could burn a person’s hand right off if they touched it.
The night began when Dylan destroyed Ed’s, Lucy’s, and Jazz’s year-twelve art folios. He didn’t have a reason other than that he hated art. Lucy convinced everyone to take revenge. They went on an adventure that involved breaking every single thing that Dylan loved.
I deleted all 80,000 words. I knew that the good parts would hang around. I didn’t want the bad parts to do the same.
I kept the landscape. I spent nights driving through the industrial western suburbs. I’d sit under the Westgate Bridge and write as Lucy. She surprised me. The factory smoke looks like dirty silk, she said. At night the suburbs are a light-scattered dream.
I let her run loose on the page, and she became optimistic. Confused by love, sure. But on the hunt for it. On the hunt for beautiful things. Dale Chihuly’s chandeliers look like dreams pulled right out of people, she said. I’d been trying to squash her into an angry world, but she saw the place as something different.
The other characters changed too. I met a nighttime poet who painted words on walls, and he became Leo. I gave a talk, and a girl in the audience told me that she was psychic; she knew she’d be in my next book. She became Jazz.
Ed changed last. I heard a story about a boy who had blue paint on his hands, and that image felt right. I went home and wrote as Ed, and the line I spray the sky fast arrived on the page. I spoke to people who were passionate about street art, but it was important for me to create Ed’s work because it was his inner dialogue. Disappointed seas and ghost forests rolled onto the page.
I gave the characters one night to change themselves and each other. I put them in toilet cubicles together, on bikes, in a pink free-love van on the highway. I made them ride off the edge of cliffs to see what would happen. I let Jazz and Leo dance close and talk about poetry. I sent Lucy and Ed off together to talk about art to see if that changed them.
Poetry and art changed all of them. Which is what poetry and art should do, I think. They shouldn’t start a group of teenagers off on the road to revenge. But set them moving out of a mean night toward morning. --Cath Crowley