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Review: Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

graffiti moon cath crowley Review: Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

The walled swathes of land through which Melbournes spoking train lines run are strangely, incongruously rich: a morning train ride will take you past rusted metal pylons, waving stalks of grass, piles of debris, and streamers of vivid, vibrant art for which you cant help but turn your head. Murals, bulbous text, geometric/cubist somethings, splodges, splatters, scrawls. Avenues of art that its hard not to appreciate. Melbourne, being the mournful and dreary little city that it is, hides these pockets of startling verve away as best it can, but every now and then youll walk down a lane way or brush past a traffic pole or squint at the footpath and realise that youve just participated in something underground, verboten, but kind of awesome.

Cath Crowleys most recent novel, Graffiti Moon, draws on Melbournes graffiti culture in a surprising and thoughtful way, allowing it to give a voice to someone who in so many ways lacks one. Ed, one of the two main point of view characters in the novel, is severely dyslexic, and his condition has resulted, both directly and indirectly, in his cutting himself off from so many facets of his life. His sense of self worth is strongly tied to his inability to read, and as such he allows certain events to wash over him without protest or retaliation. Being expelled from school over perceptions of exam dishonesty; losing his girlfriend for failing to respond to her love letters. Ed punishes himself by simply settling; his only outlet is the murals he so clandestinely paints under the pseudonym Shadow; his only support that of his kind boss, who tries to steer him towards bettering himself.

But tonight, the tonight over with the whole novel rangily takes place, bringing to mind works like Murakamis excellent After Dark (see our review), Shadow is the subject of a manhunt, although perhaps not the type of manhunt that he might have expected. Lucy Dervish, a girl whose name rather neatly encapsulates her personality, has fallen in love with the mysterious genius behind the murals that flare across the buildings near the building where she is undertaking a glassblowing apprenticeship as part of her year 12 studies. Out with friends celebrating her final day of classes, she is determined to gauge the reality of her romanticised notions of this elusive artist by tracking him down at last. Ed and his friend Leo are unwittingly drawn into the fray, and what results is a fascinating, illuminating trek through suburban Melbourne and also through the lives and identities of these teens.

Crowley touches on many themes and concepts in this slim volume, and her lyrical prose allows parts of this novel to reach heights that are utterly superlative. However, while exotic and evocative, it never overwhelms: Crowley carefully couples these literary curlicues with astonishingly spot-on dialogue and overlapping points-of-view that allow for dual perspectives of meaningful instants. Doing so lends a certain gravitas, but its more reflective than melancholic, and its a neat narrative trick to delineate the motivations and perceptions of her two main characters. And differentiating character is something that Crowley does beautifully: her characters are all rich and distinct, with idiosyncrasies and backgrounds that are intriguing and creative without falling into the trap of being kooky for the sake of being kooky. I also enjoyed the way in which Crowley allowed her characters to be more than just themselves: the family lives of the characters are beautifully woven into the narrative rather than simply excluded or glossed over, as can sometimes happen in YA when the author is striving to make their characters artificially independent.

Identity and the way it is created both within and without is a key theme in this book, and like so many excellent books Ive read this year, self-concept is carefully intertwined with art and the act of creation. But what is curious here is how Crowley also allows art not only to be a voice, but also as a (partial but painfully inadequate) substitute for a voice, or even as a means by which a voice is hidden. Shadows identity is revealed to Lucy only in the final few pages of the book, and the timing and reasons behind this final reveal are fascinating. For me, however, this was also the part of the book that I struggled with: while Shadow/Eds battle with his identity and self-concept stopped him from revealing the truth to identity, and while Lucys own identity took strength from Shadows art, I just found that this element was drawn out to farcical proportions. After a while, Lucys swooning promulgations of love for a mere apparition began to grate somewhat, particularly given her otherwise strong and forthright nature, and I found myself wondering how on earth Ed, even with his embattled self-esteem, managed to cope with thisit does, after all, seem rather back-handed compliment to be told repeatedly that your shadow self is far superior to the rest of you.

Still, I can honestly say that many readers will find themselves at least a little in love with this book. I know that this site is called Read in a Single Sitting, but this book is one that, like fine chocolate, you might want to savour a littleif you can bring yourself to do so. I look forward to reading more of Crowleys work.

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Purchase Graffiti Moon

With thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for the review copy

Other books by Cath Crowley:

a little wanting song crowley1 Review: Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowleycath crowley faltrain Review: Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowleychasing charlie duskin crowley Review: Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley


  1. Great review, this does sound like an interesting read. What a fantastic blog by the way :)

    • Stephanie /

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Naida! It is a great read, and Im thoroughly impressed by Crowleys prose style and her excellent dialogue. :)

      Thanks also for your lovely words about my site!