Booklist: Seven YA books featuring graffiti artists.
I was, as you will soon see, pretty meh about Subway Love. SO, I decided to round out the post with six OTHER books that touch on graffiti—some that I've read and enjoyed, some that I want to read.
Subway Love, by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Soulmates meet on a beautifully graffitied subway car in New York City. They attempt to go out for coffee, but lose each other when they leave the car... because, it turns out, Jonas lives in the present day and Laura lives in 1972. It's a problem that seems to have no solution, and is compounded by the fact that Laura's living situation—her mother's boyfriend is physically abusive—is rapidly becoming life-threatening. But, with the help of a graffiti artist who seems to be mysteriously unstuck in time, maybe, possibly, they can find a solution?
As I have difficulty with fantasies in which magic has no rules or logic—fantasies in which magic just happens BECAUSE MAGIC (And yes, in case you're wondering, magical realism is generally a struggle for me.)—this was not a good fit. I always want to know WHY. WHY can Max Lowenbein/Spike interact with both Laura and Jonas outside of the subway? Is it because he's an artist, and therefore somehow outside time, or is it because he's a Puerto Rican Jew, and since his life incorporates two cultures, why not two times, too? (I could certainly be over-reacting here, but when the only major brown-skinned character in the book has Capital-W Wisdom and Otherworldly Knowledge, my Magical Other radar starts bleeping.) Does this sort of soulmates-meet-across-time happen often, and if not, why are Jonas and Laura so special? I am fully aware that this issue is ALL ME, but I feel it's important to mention, because it may well have colored the rest of my take on the book.
And my take on the book, in short, is that even beyond the woo-woo stuff, it didn't do much for me. Instalove, dialogue that feels unnatural and stuff, more like a writing exercise—or even some sort of personal meditation than a full-fledged story.
Going Over, by Beth Kephart:
...it's got a great sense of place and time, and Kephart works in loads of stories about people who attempted (some who succeeded, some who did not) to get over the wall, and there's also a bibliography and an informative author's note. It's one of those odd books that snuck up on me—I didn't realize how invested I was in the characters and their story until it was over, and I was crying.
Graffiti Knight, by Karen Bass: A sixteen-year-old boy in post-WWII Soviet-controlled Germany. After his sister is raped by a gang of Soviets—which, jeez, I'll make sure to be in a steady frame of mind before picking this one up—Wilm and his friends start protesting Soviet rule with a series of pranks... until something goes wrong and they end up on the run. Based on a true story.
Graffiti Moon, by Cath Crowley:
...takes place over the course of one night (always romantic), and is about a girl searching for a mysterious graffiti artist while in the company of the boy she had a disastrous date with two years ago...who happens to secretly be the guy she’s looking for*. It’s about two people getting past first impressions and long-held assumptions (and yes, she’s a fan of Pride and Prejudice), about art, family and friendship, loneliness and longing. It made me laugh out loud and it made me cry. And, at times, it made my heart feel too big for my chest.
Straight Punch, by Monique Polak: Girl gets caught tagging one too many times, is expelled and sent to an alternative high school in Montreal. Exacerbating an already-difficult transition is the school's boxing program, an activity that is waaaaaay out of Monique's comfort zone. But just as she starts coming around to her classmates, the New Directions community, and even to boxing, the school comes under fire, and its neighbors begin to try to shut it down.
Janes in Love, by Cecil Castellucci: While there's spray paint depicted on the cover, I'm not sure if the Janes ever actually use it in either of the books. But, as the series is about a group of teenaged girls trying to bring art to their stodgy suburb, I'll allow it. And they definitely do some chalk art, so. Oh, Minx imprint. You are missed.
Graffiti Girl, by Kelly Parra: After aspiring artist Angel Rodriguez' entry for an upcoming community mural doesn't win, she gets involved with a graffiti crew... and tangled up in a love triangle with dueling artists.