A 14-year-old graffiti artist spends a summer away from his inner-city home.
Fearful that Liam will follow his older brother into gang-influenced crime, his mother sends him from Minneapolis to a small resort town in Michigan to spend the summer with her artist friend, Kat. Liam's had a rough year, having been kicked out of the private school where he'd won a scholarship and threatened with a gun for painting graffiti over a gang sign. At first Liam dislikes Lakeshore; he even vandalizes the town beach house in a cross between artistic expression and boredom. Gradually, with Kat's help, he begins to see himself as a serious artist. Kat invites him to stay, but he knows that at home, his younger brother is befriending gang members. Mullen's smooth debut, written primarily in dialogue with very short chapters, often feels like a verse novel without the limitations of that form. His first-person narration is characterized by clipped, often incomplete sentences that capture his restlessness. Liam's reluctance to take chances feels authentic, given his past, and the exploration of graffiti as serious art, with links to Picasso and Basquiat, intrigues.
A solid, interesting novel. (Fiction. 12-16)