Sunday, November 4, 2012

Poetic Reflections: Graffiti Moon, Slammed, Love & Leftovers

Three of my latest favorites in young adult novels involve poetry in one form or another.  Graffiti Moon by Australian author Cath Crowley chronicles an monumental evening in the lives of Shadow, a graffiti artist, and his best friend Poet, who scrawls poetic lines over Shadow's wall paintings.  Slammed by Colleen Hoover follows the lives of two young people, coping with death and family responsibilities, who find an outlet in slam poetry. Love and Leftovers is a novel-in-verse by Sarah Tregay, which lyrically paints the familiar story of a teen dealing with divorce.
Graffiti Moon is told in alternating voices by Lucy, a glass artist with a crush on Shadow, the mysterious graffiti artist whose work appears all over the city, and Ed, aka Shadow, a dyslexic high school dropout who exposes his tortured soul through his wall paintings,  It's graduation night and Lucy decides she will celebrate by finding Shadow, assuming a guy who paints like Shadow is someone she could really connect with.  Instead, Lucy and her best friend Jazz find themselves on an all night search around the city with Ed and Leo, who promise to help them find Shadow and Poet. Lucy is initially extremely uncomfortable because  Ed is the guy she's managed to avoid since she broke his nose on the most awkward date of her life. As Ed escorts her from one art installation to another, they reveal more and more about themselves to each other. Meanwhile Jazz and Leo, aka Poet, connect through his poems which are woven into the story.  To the reader's dismay  Lucy and Jazz take a long time to recognize the truth that's right before their eyes. A judge from the 2011 Prime Minister's Literary Awards says, "This is a heart-stopping romantic adventure, singing with a love of art and language. Poet's free verse contributions are rather like the tense pauses in great music -- a place for readers to hold their breath and wait, skin tingling with anticipation, for the change in pace, pitch and rhythm" 

In Slammed, 18-year-old Layken is devastated when her father dies unexpectedly and Mom moves her and her young brother to Michigan.  But then she meets Will, her 21-year-old neighbor, and they are immediately drawn to each other.  His parents died unexpectedly in a car accident, and he now finds himself  parenting his nine-year-old brother. They feel a kinship through the parallel events in their lives. When fate conspires to keep them apart, the only way they can truly communicate is through the poetry slams that they both love.  The author was inspired by the Avett Brothers whose song lyrics introduce each chapter.  The inclusion of  poetry slams in the story and the poetry the author writes on behalf of the characters performing are a delightfully lyrical and satisfying way to add emotional depth and advance the story. The sequel Point of No Retreat is available and both books have recently been optioned for film.

Love and Leftovers introduces Marcie, whose mother drags her from Idaho to New Hampshire for the summer when Dad leaves her for another man.  She's left behind her friends, a group of freaks and geeks called the Leftovers, including Linus, her emo-rocker boyfriend. As summer turns into fall, Marcie realizes they may never return home. Although Marcie misses her group of friends and her boyfriend, she meets JD, a new guy who sweetens her stay.  Feeling guilty about cheating on Linus, but frustrated by her loneliness, Marcie wonders whether love ever lasts. Seven months later, Marcie's mother sends her back to Idaho  to live with her father. Marcy tells Linus about JD, expecting Linus to forgive her, and is shocked when he dumps her. Marcie expresses her pain through her poetry— “there is no three strikes / when it comes to dating. / One heartbreak and that’s it.” Poems, IM conversations, and emo love songs make up this wonderful tale of teenage angst. Ed Goldberg of VOYA says, "Although the words are simple, the themes of Love and Leftovers are not."