Author: Cath Crowley
Publication Date: 2/14/12
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Blurb(GR): 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.
I can’t imagine a better young adult romance to read on Valentine’s Day. In fact, my advice to all of my fellow book nerds out there is to just toss out those chalky conversation hearts, forget about the rest of humanity, and hole up with this book today. If you have a significant other, tell him or her to skip the flowers and buy you this instead. If you’re alone then all the better – more time to read. Who needs a date on Valentine’s Day anyway? Or rather, who needs a date with a person? Books always smell nice, they’re patient, undemanding, and they can say all the right things. This book is a terrific date.
This is the book that I wish today’s teens would read. I wrote that last April about the Australian edition and it still stands. While many young adult romances seem to be propagandizing the all-consuming, identity swallowing, love at first glance kind of romance, this book goes so much deeper. It acknowledges the instant attraction, the lust, the electricity, and then it moves on. It moves past the romantic ideals to celebrate the more complex truth.
This story is told in alternating chapters by Lucy, Ed, and “Poet,” as they celebrate the end of year twelve through the hours of one very long night. Lucy dreams of finding“Shadow” – a graffiti artist who she’s convinced (based on his work) is the one she’s been waiting for. She has a teenager’s assumptions of what love and romance will be like, but she lets her assumptions eclipse any possibility of real romance.
“We’ll meet and click and sit up all night and everything will tip out of me and into him and the other way around and while we’re tipping the night will fade and the world will get pink and in that pinkness he’ll kiss me. We’ll keep taking bits of each other till we get to our center, then we’ll do it and it won’t feel scary or strange.”
Lucy is a bit like a literary fangirl – she bases all of her assumptions about love and romance on her favorite books and when asked to come up with a list of guys who she would “do it” with (by Jazz), she names all fictional characters. It’s very satisfying to see her journey to the realization that love is very different from what she assumes, and so much better.
“Real is better. The truth is better. It makes you feel stupid, but it’s better.”
This book has a few elements that I’ve seen in other YA novels, but here they are accomplished with so much more heart and authenticity. I loved Lucy’s parents in the Australian edition and although their presence is scaled back quite a bit in this U.S. edition, they are still a wonderful example of three dimensional, quirky, loving, human parents. Lucy is very worried throughout the book because her father has moved from their home to the shed out back, which doesn't conform to her view of how love should be:
"You should feel it like a horse tumbling through you. You shouldn’t be able to sleep knowing that the person you love is lying in the shed.”
Even though Lucy has doubts about her parents’ relationship, their love is visible in these pages. It’s such a rare treat to find a complex, realistic adult romance hidden within a young adult story. Lucy’s parents argue and struggle financially and have problems, and their relationship isn’t perfect. And yet it works for them, which is the only thing that matters.
Cath Crowley also does such a wonderful job with Leo and Ed– two boys who manage to be sensitive and artistic without seeming whiny or pretentious. They feel like real boys, complete with awkwardness, bad decision-making, and insecurities. They never feel (as many young adult love interests do) like shallow illustrations of the author’s own wish-fulfillment.
One thing that I noticed a lot more this time is that this book is not only about Lucy’s awakening to reality; it’s about Ed’s. Lucy’s view of Shadow is a rosy-hued fantasy, but Ed’s view of himself is a dark and painful place. Even as Lucy is blinding herself to the possibility of real romance, she’s helping Ed – to see himself in a new way, as someone amazing.
This book is excellent proof that a light read can also contain serious topics like death, poverty, parental abandonment, and divorce. It's a sweet, hilarious, romantic book that won't make you choke on saccharine sweetness.
A Few Notes About the Differences Between the U.S. and Australian Editions:
I started looking through the U.S. edition yesterday, thinking that there wouldn't be too many differences - maybe a few less u's, maybe the word "Maccas" would be changed to McDonald's. Nothing major.
Boy was I wrong. I hesitate to say that this book is completely different, but...this book is completely different. Nearly every single page has some alteration. There are the simple changes that one would expect, like “real estate agent” becomes “landlady,” “abseil” becomes “rappel,” and the Peppermint Freddoes become Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. In the Australian edition, Jazz loves chess. In the U.S. edition, she loves Scrabble. Lucy no longer "can't get no" anything. Barry's diner is now called Feast cafe.
And then there are large-scale rewordings, additions, and deletions.
So what exactly are the major differences? The largest addition is a new chapter by Poet, featuring a poem called Dance Floor, which is written like a conversation between Jazz and Leo.
The U.S. edition also expands on quite a few things: Ed’s Mum has a bigger role, as do Al the glass artist, Bert the paint store owner, and there are several new scenes with Jazz that replace ones with Lucy’s parents. There’s more information about Leo’s home life and Ed’s relationship with Beth (Ed and Beth's ending has also been changed). There’s a gorgeous new passage where Lucy draws her memory bottles for Ed in charcoal next to one of Shadow’s paintings.
Some passages are completely rewritten. I spent probably too much time trying to figure out why. For example, check out the differences between these two frequently quoted passages:
"Every time he looked at me I felt like I’d touched my tongue to the tip of a battery. In Art class I’d watch him lean back and listen and I was nothing but zing and tingle. After a while the tingle turned to electricity, and when he asked me out my whole body amped to a level where technically I should have been dead. I had nothing in common with a sheddy like him, but a girl doesn’t think straight when she’s that close to electrocution."
"Most times when I looked over he wasn’t drawing. He was leaning back in his chair and staring at me. And every time he stared I felt like I’d touched my tongue to the tip of a battery. I was nothing but tingle. After a while the tingle turned to electricity, and when he asked me out my whole body amped to a level where technically I should have been dead. I was pretty sure we had nothing in common, but a girl doesn’t think straight when she’s that close to electrocution."
Do Australians feel zing and we don't? What is zing anyway? Can I have it shipped here for free from fishpondworld?
In general I was disappointed that the U.S. edition seemed to be striving for more of an adult presence in Ed and Leo’s lives, and that Lucy’s parents were scaled down. It felt a bit...sanitized, which I didn't like. However, I think that Ed's insecurities and inner emotions come across much more clearly in the U.S. edition. It's hard to say which one I like more. If you're a fan of this book and you've read the Australian edition, it's definitely worth getting the U.S. edition as well.
Perfect Musical Pairing
Tegan and Sara - Call it Off
Twins Tegan and Sara Quin can so effortlessly capture raw longing with their bare, harmonizing voices. This song is such an emotional ode to missed chances and I think that it’s the perfect complement to Graffiti Moon.