Judged by Andrée • Find her on Goodreads
First battle in round two guys, here we go! This battle ended up being between Fair Weather by Richard Peck and Graffiti Moon by Cathy Crowley.
Like many of the pairings in this bracket (both past, and I would imagine to come), they’re really, really different, guys.
So different, in fact, that I didn’t even bother trying to think of similarities. I suppose both books are coming of age stories, of a sort, but that hardly counts as a similarity in YA/MG fiction. Let’s just move on to the books themselves.
Graffiti Moon is the story of a group of friends on their last night of high school. Three young women, including our protagonist Lucy, decide that they want to have an adventure, maybe do something a bit crazy, something they’d never normally do. Simultaneously, three of their male classmates, including down-on-his-luck high school dropout and graffiti artist Ed, are basically killing time before robbing the art department of the high school to solve their money problems. Guess what happens next? Additional clues: Ed and Lucy went on a disastrous date in the tenth grade just before he dropped out and haven’t really spoken since. Lucy has fallen in love with the artwork of a mysterious graffiti artist known only as Shadow, and decides her adventure of the evening will be enlisting Ed’s help to find him (Ed helpfully volunteers that he has some idea where Shadow sometimes hangs out). Have you figured out the plot yet? (To be fair, the book doesn’t set it up like it’s a twist, though for some reason the blurb on the back of the copy I read does.)
At any rate, Ed and Lucy spend much of the night traveling around the city looking at graffiti and talking about art. I enjoyed some of the bonding over art as the pair figured out how to actually have a conversation.
Graffiti Moon is very much a book about adolescence, and kids who haven’t quite figured themselves, or life, or relationships out yet. There are some parts that are really strong. I love how the friendships are written. The friendship between the three girls, Lucy and her best friend Jazz, and their newest friend Daisy, is particularly well done. The dynamic between the guys is fun, too – I just really liked the female friendships in this book. They’re very supportive, while still being snarky. Actually, that pretty much describes all the relationships in this book that aren’t completely antagonistic. Graffiti Moon touches on the problems that kids can have as they grow up, whether they’re problems with traditional methods of learning, financial problems, family problems, or relationship problems, while managing not to feel too preachy. Although, I did feel the resolution, at least of the financial pressures, was a little bit too easy.
The other thing that struck me after I finished the book is that the characters in Graffiti Moon feel like real characters, but not necessarily realistic ones. Or maybe it’s the situation that didn’t quite feel real; it’s almost like this book takes place in its own little bubble separate from the world. Like it’s just this one magical night that almost transcends reality. I guess those nights do happen to people as they grow up, which is probably why the book feels real. But it almost feels hyper-real. Even when I did finally get sucked into the writing and the plot, I was always very aware that this was a novel. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing, because I suspect that whatever it is about the writing that ends up sucking you in and setting the book apart, also ends up making you more aware of the writing at the same time.
And I was always very aware of the writing. It didn’t work for me, for a while. In fact, I actually started this book before Jess posted her write-up. Interestingly, the exact same line from the first chapter that she flagged when she was talking about the prose stood out to me, too. I didn’t quite have the urge to put the book down, but I definitely rolled my eyes. And it did take me a couple of weeks to get past the first forty pages or so. Once I got a bit further into the story, things got a lot better, but the book took me a little while to settle into. I’m not always a fan of prose that is that deliberate. And sometimes Graffiti Moon felt like it was just trying too hard. At everything.
In contrast, Fair Weather just felt completely natural from the first page. The book surprised me, because for some reason, the voice wasn’t quite what I was expecting. The voice of the novel is that of its protagonist, Rosie. Rosie lives on a farm with her family. She’s the middle child, with an older sister and a younger brother, and unlike the characters in Graffiti Moon, there’s nothing self-aware or angst-ridden about Rosie. She’s just a cheerful young girl who helps out at her family’s farm, salt of the earth, practical to her core, by turns irritated by her younger brother and mystified by her older sister, who by all accounts has been growing up over the past couple of years.
The book begins with an invitation for Rosie and her siblings to attend the Chicago World’s Fair from their Aunt Euterpe (which, as an aside, that name! Apologies if anyone knows a Euterpe; I know she’s one of the Greek muses, but still). Their eccentric grandfather decides to come along for the ride. The trip is Rosie’s first to a big city, so everything is new for her, including her Aunt’s wealth. Rosie doesn’t always adjust to the change with perfect grace and poise. One of my favourite scenes in this book is when Rosie and her sister get up early and start making breakfast, and their aunt’s cook pitches a fit because they disturbed her kitchen. I also quite like Aunt Euterpe as a character. She married a man much older than her who had quite a lot of money, and has since died leaving her a widow. Now she’s in a big city where she knows next to no one and has no close friends. Her loneliness was well conveyed, as was her sheer mortification at some of the crazy things her father managed to do.
Fair Weather is just a fun book, though, like Graffiti Moon, there are a couple of really convenient coincidences towards the end. The novel is an easy to read. Rosie is an engaging narrator with a fairly distinctive voice right from the start. I finished the book in one sitting. It made me laugh more than once. I could picture Rosie and her family at their farm house. I could picture the shopping trip to town where their mother buys all their new things. I could picture Aunt Euterpe’s dreary mansion, and I could picture the fair, the exhibits and the fancy tea the ladies go to (I was also a fan of the fancy tea). I enjoyed the book.
But it never really went anywhere for me. I read it, I smiled, I thought “Well, that was fun,” then I went to do something else and didn’t really think about it again until I had to write up this decision. I enjoyed it while I was reading it, but it didn’t make a significant impression on me.
On the other hand, Graffiti Moon is not an easy book, but it made an impression. Mixed in with the adolescent adventure, it deals with some tough subjects, and some pretty terrible things happen along the way (or almost happen). It’s by no means a perfect book, but I think it does a pretty good job of capturing what it can feel like to be an adolescent, and there are some moments of pure awesome towards the end (mostly involving Lucy). Plus, the ending worked for me, somewhat convenient resolution and all. And I think I’ll remember it.
So for that reason, I’m sending Graffiti Moon on to the next round.