This outstanding book by yet another terrific Australian young adult author is set in Melbourne, Australia, and alternates narration among several likable and talented teens who make up for lack of self-confidence with a great deal of heart.
Lucy loves art, and likes people who are unusual. Her best girlfriends are Jazz and Daisy, girls who don’t “follow the rules of high school geography.” She also thinks that a mysterious, visionary graffiti artist known as “Shadow” would be her soulmate – if only she could find out who he is.
Ed is Shadow – he dropped out of school because of his dyslexia. Although he can’t read and can barely write, his head is full of ideas, and his pictures are full of expressiveness and beauty. Sometimes they are accompanied by verse by his friend Leo, who goes by the sobriquet Poet. Chapters narrated by Leo are in the form of poems.
Lucy doesn’t realize that she actually went out with Ed two years before, and broke his nose on their one and only date.
As the story begins, Lucy and Ed are thrown together again because Lucy’s friends, Daisy and Jazz, want to hang out with Ed’s friends Leo and Dylan. So Lucy and Ed end up paired off, much to their mutual chagrin.
Lucy tells Ed about her admiration for Shadow, and how much she wants to find out who he is, and Ed offers to take her places where he might show up. As they travel by bicycle around the city, Ed takes Lucy on a tour of hidden sites where he has painted graffiti. The haunting and stunning pictures lay bare Ed’s emotional landscape. Lucy sees that Shadow feels there are doors in his head that let in sound but not meaning; that he feels trapped; that he his heart has been “rocked by earthquakes and disappointed seas.” The story of Shadow’s pain and fears is expressed by graffiti moons and bricked-in birds; he thinks no girl would want him if she knew who he really was, with his limitations.
But Lucy, who works as a glass-blower, knows that even some of the most beautiful pieces of glass have cracks running through them. If ever she and Ed could be honest with themselves and each other, maybe they could figure out how to open some of those locked doors.
Discussion: The writing in this book is exceptional. The prose is very often poetic without falling into the trap of being “bore-geous” as author Ayelet Waldman calls writing that’s gorgeous but pointless or meaningless.
Published in the U.S. by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., 2012