book review: Graffiti Girl
author: Kelly Parra
date: 2007; Pocket Books
main character: Angel Rodriguez
Angel is a high school student. She’s a gifted artist seeking to define her own style. She’s always been friends with Nathan and secretly likes him. So why, oh why would Miguel start to give her some attention just as Nathan does? Actually, Nathan and MIguel stopped being close friends a long time ago and are competing for Angel’s attention. Miguel appears to be such a classic bad guy and Nathan such a all time good guy that I had to wonder if they would remain true to form.
Miguel introduces graffiti art to Angel. She is amazed by the possibilities of this art form and from Miguel, she learns this really is an art form and not just a form of vandalism, though authorities see things differently. Angel wants to spray paint her art, but she doesn’t want to deface public property. Throughout the book, there are instances where Angel almost takes a step, but doesn’t. Profanity starts to come out of her mouth, but the words don’t completely form. She doesn’t cut class, but she forges pass for those who do. It seemed almost as if Parra wanted to push the envelope with her character, but she was unsure how far to go. I can understand the reluctance to seem cavalier when writing for someone else’s child, but Parra is such a gifted writer I wish she could have let go of her fears. I was invested in this story from the beginning and trusted where she would take me.
Brushing hair out of my face, I took a breath that came out shaky. Keep it cool, Rodriguez. I unzipped my case, hesitantly raised the flap, and stared at my work.
My Viking was as realistic as I could draw him, but I had to be honest with myself. The hombre looked two-dimensional instead of three. The ocean waves were jagged, instead of soft and flowing. My use of rich colors and thick lines definitely drew the eye. But, where was the realism? Where was the use of delicate shading that brought art to life?
It wasn’t there, no matter how hard I tried. I knew it was my style, but more than once I wished I had a lighter hand. Even though I had worked my butt off on this presentation, sketched it out three times before settling on a design, and then painstakingly obsessed over color and medium, I had the same irritating through in the back of my head: just not perfect.
How hard it must be to be an artist, especially as a teen! To put one’s work out there and to feel as though it is the artist and not the art that is being judge. Angel comes of age as she finds her artistic voice. She also works out romance issues on her own terms. She never let herself be pressured. That’s an important message for the young girls who will read this book.
Kelly Parra was gracious enough to do an interview with me in November. At that time, she mentioned Graffiti Girl was being optioned for film. That could be interesting! Parra said she’s partial to Allison Iraheta from American Idol Season to play Angel. She also mentioned a song “Graffiti Girl” but I hate to admit I couldn’t find it on YouTube. I don’t remember music mentioned in the book, but I could see Angel with something playing in her ears, something loud and vibrant.