Graffiti Moon

Graffiti Moon

4.2 27
by Cath Crowley

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Senior year is over, and Lucy has the perfect way to celebrate: tonight, she's going to find Shadow, the mysterious graffiti artist whose work appears all over the city. He's out there somewhere—spraying color, spraying birds and blue sky on the night—and Lucy knows a guy who paints like Shadow is someone she could fall for. Really fall for. Instead…  See more details below


Senior year is over, and Lucy has the perfect way to celebrate: tonight, she's going to find Shadow, the mysterious graffiti artist whose work appears all over the city. He's out there somewhere—spraying color, spraying birds and blue sky on the night—and Lucy knows a guy who paints like Shadow is someone she could fall for. Really fall for. Instead, Lucy's stuck at a party with Ed, the guy she's managed to avoid since the most awkward date of her life. But when Ed tells her he knows where to find Shadow, they're suddenly on an all-night search around the city. And what Lucy can't see is the one thing that's right before her eyes.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—This adventure, set in Australia, is one for the art crowd. Lucy, Jazz, and Daisy plan to celebrate graduation by staying out all night. And while they're at it, Lucy is determined to meet Shadow, a mysterious graffiti artist who has tagged the city with his soulful works. Jazz is set on finding Poet, Shadow's partner and the wordsmith of his wall art. Daisy just wants boyfriend Dylan to remember that it's her birthday. Dealing with his dyslexia by quitting school, Ed has lost his job in a paint store and is talked into robbing the art wing of the high school this particular night with Leo and Dylan. They decide to hang out with the girls until it's time for the heist. Ed takes Lucy on a search for Shadow and along the way they visit a number of his paintings around the city. Chapters that alternate between Lucy and Ed (who, unbeknownst to Lucy, is Shadow) rely heavily on art-themed metaphor to describe the encroaching darkness, city scenes, traffic lights, and impending dawn. Part gallery tour, part crime caper, and part romance, Graffiti Moon is an artsy spin on the common young adult theme of self-discovery. The references to artists and specific works may intimidate readers who have little related knowledge, but it might also nudge them to learn about Vermeer and others. The aesthetic tone of the story is punctuated with comic relief and some coarse language. While Lucy's and Ed's inner dialogues sometimes seem unrealistically metaphorical, readers will appreciate the original and sympathetic characters. A paint-covered thumbs up!—Karen Elliott, Grafton High School, WI
Publishers Weekly
Crowley (A Little Wanting Song) returns with a moving contemporary spin on disguised-identity romances (think You’ve Got Mail), first published in Australia. The novel is told in the voices of two creative older teenagers—Ed, aka secretive graffiti artist Shadow, and Lucy, a fledgling glass blower—interspersed with the poems of Leo/Poet, Ed’s best friend and graffiti partner. Set over the course of one long night, Crowley’s story slowly develops the relationship between Ed and Lucy, enemies since a disastrous date two years earlier. Lucy is obsessed with Shadow and his art; she tells Ed, “I just want to meet one guy, one guy, who thinks art is cool.” The teens’ artistic sensibilities are richly and affectingly expressed; readers will agonize over their obvious compatibility and long for them to recognize each other as soul mates. The beauty and danger of the nocturnal urban landscape is an effective counterpoint to the growing attraction of the sensitive yet bristly pair. Secondary characters—close friends, artistic mentors, and well-meaning parents—are strongly rendered, layering the steadily engrossing story with credible complexity. Ages 14–up. Agent: Catherine Drayton, InkWell Management. (Feb.)
VOYA - Mark Flowers
In alternating chapters, Ed and Lucy, who once went on a disastrous date together, describe their night-long search for the elusive graffiti artist, Shadow. Based solely on his art, Lucy is convinced that she is in love with Shadow, never suspecting that Shadow is Ed. Meanwhile, Ed has to decide whether to join his best friend, Leo, in a robbery later in the night to pay back Leo's debt to a gangster. The high level of contrivance to the setup requires a heavy dose of suspension of disbelief, but while a lesser writer might have used it for cheap humor or forced emotion, the artifice of the plot reads as very nearly Shakespearean (say, an inverted version of As You Like It), and Crowley mines for deep truths about identity, art, and love. Both Ed and Lucy are strong characters, and Ed's conflict over whether to tell Lucy the truth about his identity—he fears that he can never live up to Lucy's vision of Shadow—is genuinely moving. Less felicitous is the character of Leo, whose banal poems are interspersed throughout the text and whose various romantic entanglements are neither as believable nor as funny as they are meant to be. Though Lucy remains powerfully portrayed, her narration sometimes feels forced. Nevertheless, powered by a deep set of ideas; strong, relatable characters; and the teen-centric topic of graffiti art, this novel should have wide critical and popular appeal. Reviewer: Mark Flowers
Children's Literature - Jodell Sadler
Voice drives this novel that every teen should read. It is nice to read a YA book about doing the right thing, freeing your inner artist, and finding your own path among friends, as much as guiding your friends when they need a little nudge in a better direction. Although the reader might prefer to read this from just Lucy's point of view, Ed and Poet play an important role. The way this writer brings in the artistic perspectives of all three characters is exceptional. The way art is described through Lucy, and the way it reveals and defines these characters is magical: graffiti, poetry, and blown glass. Deception is part of the plot and as Lucy and Ed reconnect, it is really ideal to enjoy a story where teens attempt to help one another and really keep everyone on the right track. Lucy only wants to find Shadow, a local graffiti artist she loves who paints birds, color, and sky in a way she connects to, and lose Ed, her ultimate date gone bad. Once she learns that Ed knows Shadow, she follows him all night admiring his many murals, analyzing them, and eventually keeping Ed from helping his friend steal from their school to pay off a debt. Then Lucy learns Shadow's true identity and the ending rings true. Reviewer: Jodell Sadler
ALAN Review - Barbara A. Ward
Senior year has ended, and Lucy and her friends spend the night in pursuit of Shadow, the elusive street artist she desperately wants to meet. After all, they have much in common since she, too, is a glassblowing artist. Inevitably, the girls pair off with some locals. Lucy ends up with Ed, who is nothing like Shadow. Or is he? Things are awkward at times, but the three couples also experience moments of closeness as well. The author alternates the story through the voices of Lucy and Ed as well as interspersing poetry from Ed's friend Leo. While teens often bond through music, these teens connect through images, colors, and poetry. The book's sometimes edgy tone hinting of underlying violence is leavened by its humor. Older teen readers will cherish these quirky characters for their independence and for the secrets they're hiding. One important night foreshadows possibilities for each character. Reviewer: Barbara A. Ward
Kirkus Reviews
Alternating narrators and snatches of poetry tell the tale of love among graffiti artists. Lucy has been searching for the mysterious graffiti artist Shadow, whose work seems to address her fear of romance. Unfortunately, the only guy who knows how to track him down is Ed, whose nose Lucy broke at the end of a disastrous date. Ed knows how to track down Shadow because he is Shadow--a secret he hopes to keep from Lucy while he leads her around town revisiting old haunts. When Lucy discovers that Ed has been lying to her, she must deal with her conflicted feelings over the artist and the annoying man. Readers will quickly realize that Ed and Shadow are one and the same, a fact that Crowley reveals fairly early on. With that mystery stripped away, Ed is difficult to like, lacking both a strong personality and emotional resonance. His difficulty at school due to dyslexia smacks of pandering and isn't well integrated into the overall story. Lucy's personality is slightly more developed; glassblowing is a talent not often seen in teen fiction. However, Crowley's divided narrative doesn't suit the characters, and the decision to intersperse poems into the mix further fractures their interactions. There's splashes of color, but teens will find their interest washes out rapidly. (Fiction. 13 & up)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
Sales rank:
HL630L (what's this?)
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt


I pedal fast. Down Rose Drive, where houses swim in pools of orange streetlight. Where people sit on verandas, hoping to catch a breeze. Let me make it in time. Please let me make it in time.

Just arrived at the studio. Your graffiti guys Shadow and Poet are here, Al texted, and I took off across the night. Took off under a sky bleeding out and turning black. Left Dad sitting outside his shed yelling, “I thought you weren’t meeting Jazz till later. Where’s the fire, Lucy Dervish?”

In me. Under my skin.

Let me make it in time. Let me meet Shadow. Poet too but mainly Shadow. The guy who paints in the dark. Paints birds trapped on brick walls and people lost in ghost forests. Paints guys with grass growing from their hearts and girls with buzzing lawn mowers. An artist who paints things like that is someone I could fall for. Really fall for.

I’m so close to meeting him, and I want it so bad. Mum says when wanting collides with getting, that’s the moment of truth. I want to collide. I want to run right into Shadow and let the force spill our thoughts so we can pick each other up and pass each other back like piles of shiny stones.

At the top of Singer Street I see the city, neon blue and rising. There’s lightning deep in the sky, working its way through the heat to the surface. There’s laughter somewhere far away. There’s one of Shadow’s pieces, a painting on a crumbling wall of a heart cracked by earthquake with the words Beyond the Richter scale written underneath. It’s not a heart like you see on a Valentine’s Day card. It’s the heart how it really is: fine veins and atriums and arteries. A fist-­size forest in our chest.

I take my hands off the brakes and let go. The trees and the fences mess together and the concrete could be the sky and the sky could be the concrete and the factories spread out before me like a light-­scattered dream.

I turn a corner and fly down Al’s street. Toward his studio, toward him sitting on the steps, little moths above him, playing in the light. Toward a shadow in the distance. A shadow of Shadow. There’s collision up ahead.

I spin the last stretch and slide to a stop. “I’m here. I made it. Do I look okay? How do I look?”

Al drains his coffee and puts the cup on the step beside him. “Like a girl who missed them by about five minutes.”


It’s a sweating hot night for October. More people are out than usual, so 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.

Tonight I’m doing this bird that’s been in my head all day. He’s a little yellow guy lying on sweet green grass. Belly to clouds, legs facing the same direction. He could be sleeping. He could be dead. The yellow’s right. The green too. The sky’s all wrong. I need the sort of blue that rips your inside out. You don’t see blue like that round here.

Bert was always trying to find it for me. Every week or so at the paint store he’d show me a blue he’d special-­ordered. “Close, boss,” I’d say. “But not close enough.”

He still hadn’t found it when he died two months ago. He got all the other colors I wanted. The green this bird’s lying on is a shade he found over two years back, after I quit school and went to work for him. I made it to the end of June in year ten, and then I couldn’t make it any longer.

“You had a good first day,” Bert told me when he handed the green over. “Real good.”

“This is very fucking nice,” I said, spraying some on a card and taking it as a sign that leaving school was the right thing to do. That Mum was wrong about wanting me to stay on.

“It is very fucking nice.” Bert looked over his shoulder. “But don’t say ‘fuck’ when my wife Valerie’s around.” Bert always swore like a kid scared of getting caught. I laughed about it till Val heard me swearing. Bert had the last chuckle that day.

“What’s so funny?” a voice behind me asks.

“Shit, Leo.” A line of blue goes into the grass on the wall. “Don’t sneak up.”

“I’ve been calling your name since the top of the hill. And the council made this place legal, remember?” He finishes the last bit of his sausage roll. “I like the rush of working where we might get caught.”

“I like the rush of painting,” I tell him.

He watches me for a bit. “So I called your mobile earlier. It’s disconnected.”

“Uh-­huh. Didn’t pay the bill.” I hand him the can. “I’m hungry. Write the words.”

Leo looks at my picture of a wide sky hanging over that yellow bird. He points at the kid on the wall. “Nice touch.”

While he thinks a bit longer, I look around. The old guy who works at the glass studio across the road is on the steps, texting and staring at us. At least I know he’s not calling the cops.

Leo always makes his writing suit the piece. Sometimes he uses fonts he finds online. Sometimes he makes up his own and names them. Tonight he smokes the word Peace across the clouds, letters drifting and curling. It’s funny how two guys can look at the same thing and see it differently. I don’t see peace when I look at that bird. I see my future. I hope it’s only sleeping.

His hand moves across the wall, signing our names. He always writes them the same way. His then mine in a font he calls Phantasm.



We leave the old guy on the steps with his coffee and head up Vine Street. It’s a fifteen-­minute walk to my place if you take the main roads, but Leo and me never do. We take the side streets and alleys.

I live on the other side of the train yard, so we jump the fence and cut through, looking out for people working as we walk. I like seeing their thoughts hit the carriages. Makes the city as much ours as someone else’s.

“So I saw Beth today,” Leo says. “She asked me how you were doing.” He throws stones at the dead trains. “It sounded like she wants you back.”

I stop and take out a can and spray a greeting-­card heart with a gun pointed at it. “We’ve been over almost three months.” Since August first, not that I’m counting.

“You mind if I ask her out, then?”

“You mind if I spray a piece on the side of your gran’s house?”

He chuckles. “Yeah, right. You’re over.”

“I like her, just not anything more than that. She used to do this thing where she’d lean over and kiss me and then take a break to whisper hilarious stuff in my ear and then kiss me again. I’d be screaming, What’s wrong with you? Fall in love with her, you dick.”

“She didn’t think that was weird?”

“Inside. I was screaming on the inside. Anyway, I never fell in love with her so I guess the part of the brain that controls love doesn’t respond to being called a dick.”

“For your sake, I’m hoping no part of your brain responds to being called a dick.”

“Fair point.” I wish I hadn’t thought about Beth doing that thing because now I can feel her at my ear, warm breath and sweet tickling and her voice sounding like that blue I’ve been searching for.

“Were you in love with Emma?” I ask.

“I was hard-­core obsessed,” he says without thinking about it. “Not in love.”

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Meet the Author

Cath Crowley grew up in a small town in rural Victoria, Australia. She studied professional writing and editing at The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and works as both a freelance writer and a part-time teacher in Melbourne. She is also the author of A Little Wanting Song on the Knopf list. Visit her at

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