Aurora, raised in a rural commune, finds her notions of art challenged by her introduction to the New York City graffiti-art scene in the 1980s.
Aurora is struggling to define her artistic identity, a process complicated by her father’s suicide by house fire, an act that nearly killed the entire family. The tragedy forces Aurora, her sister, and their mother into New York City. Caught in the whirlwind of public assistance and public school, and besieged by the city’s commercialized chaos, Aurora retreats into her sketchbooks to explore her father’s complicated legacy. Her drawings of her father on fire and her imagined conversations with him, in which he offers opinions on her new life, powerfully complement the prose, the sketchlike quality of the art emulating an artist’s personal sketchbook. In art class, Aurora meets Trey, a graffiti artist with whom she forms a contentiously competitive bond that is also laced with admiration and attraction—a relationship not unlike Aurora’s feelings about graffiti, which she finds both alluring and perilous. Aurora acknowledges the graffiti artists’ talents, as well as the issues of danger and vandalism that accompany the medium. With a nod to the best parts of her father’s unconventional spirit, Aurora eventually integrates her own unorthodox styles into her graffiti while also exploring more traditional gallery spaces as potential avenues for her future works.
A thought-provoking, beautiful exploration of the artistic process. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)