5 YA Novels Exploring Graffiti Art

Graffiti or street art is often a misunderstood medium of self-expression and public dialogue. This is true maybe because traditional art is often portrayed as a mysterious world that few people have access to or can afford.

With street art, the gallery is in the street and it is wildly accessible. It is a medley of cultures and a medley of rough, passionate expressions.

By couscouschocolat (Flickr: DSCF0509) [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons
Because street art is more about self-expression and revolt than tamed ideas and artistic currents, street art or graffiti art tells us more about the person than about a setting and time. And isn’t literature mainly about people?

Novels portraying graffiti artists will introduce you to less known paths and unique world where painting is often akin to survival. This is a very stirring and fascinating culture for teens because teenagers can produce their own version of street art, be immediately part of it, and it is a contemporary art that addresses the issues their encounter every day.

By SUGS Orce Nikolov (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons
YA literature offers an array of graffiti novels, but some go deeper into the power of the art than others. Here are five novels that will make you think twice about graffiti in general.


Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley. graffiti-moon

Senior year is over, and Lucy wants to celebrate by finding the mysterious graffiti artist named Shadow. He has made a name for himself by spraying yellow birds and blue skies all over town. Lucy knows she could fall for him and so she starts an all-night search around the city.

Shadow’s art speaks to Lucy in ways words could not. The novel celebrates already existing art pieces.

You can find a gallery here: http://www.persnicketysnark.com/2011/11/graffiti-moon-art-gallery.html

Because Lucy will try to pierce the mystery of Shadow, this novel will tell you how art says more about who you are than what’s on the wall. A great love story and a story about the love of art.


If you think that art is bold and can lead to serious trouble, read Graffiti Girl by Kelly Parra.

Angel Rodriguez thinks art can save her, but when she fails her firstGraffiti Girl contest, she is determined to find her way in the art world on her own.

That’s when she meets Miguel Badalin, from the famous graffiti crew Reyes Del Norte. He introduces her to a world she had never imagined in her wildest dreams. The crew opens new possibilities for her and helps her dig deep, to the limit of her skills.

Of course, a gutsy life means she will have to make hard choices and decide to let her inner artist come out for the better or the worse.


The novel The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin might be one of the most original novels out there.The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone

After Addison Stone, a talented street artist, drowns, one of her teachers investigates her death.

This novel is fictional, but it has the flair of a documentary, mixing interviews with Addison’s artwork. It is full of intimate moments and spilled out little secrets.

The novel shows the creation of Addison’s controversial artwork through different perspectives from her foes, friends, lovers, parents and teachers.

Like a piece of art, this novel is powerful, evocative, fascinating and haunting, and can be interpreted in many ways. Teens will find a lot to root for and think about here.



Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older portrays Sierra Santiago as a street artist painting in the Brooklyn summer heat.Shadowshaper

While cruising the streets, she discovers that ancestral spirits are infiltrating graffiti art, music and stories. But when one graffiti mural starts crying and others begin to fade, it is clear that someone is on a spree to kill the shadowshaping spirits that inhabit art all around her. Sierra needs to find out who and how.

This story has the power to give you a new appreciation of the magic of street art and tattoos and will enchant you with a unique cast of characters and their quippy banters.



In the dystopian novel All Good Children by Catherine Austen, chosen children from New Middletown receive a vaccine that will make them obedient and well-mannered citizens.AllGoodchildren

Maxwell Connors, a seventeen-year-old rebel and graffiti artist, escapes the vaccine and plays “zombies” with his friend Dallas.

But when Dallas’s family wants to take him away, Max must use his artist sense to save him.

This novel ponders about freedom of speech and free will and how art can be a salvation for the entire race.  Max’s rebellious and artistic side, which he often expresses by vandalizing school property with graffiti, becomes the only hope for his family beyond the town’s walls.



Best Selling Children’s Fiction Art Architecture Books by Alibris. <http://www.alibris.com/search/books/subject/Children’s-Fiction-Art-Architecture>

Booklist: Seven YA Books Featuring Graffiti Artists. <http://www.bookshelvesofdoom.org/blog/2014/11/14/1eb4azozx5xw3hxfmm6fm07ogjhbth>

Seven Essential Books on Street Art by Brain Pickings. <https://www.brainpickings.org/2011/08/15/7-essential-books-on-street-art/>


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5 thoughts on “5 YA Novels Exploring Graffiti Art

  1. Great exploration of the intersection between YA fiction and an art form springing from the connection between self-expression and rebellion… I particularly love how Graffiti Moon incorporates actual pieces of art. This subject is near and dear to my heart because of the many years I’ve spent working in community arts education for youth in need. Nicely done!

    1. Thank you, Emily. I also love it when authors put a lot of research behind their novels; it just adds and exra dimension to think about and be amazed. I like it when novels educate me in an entertaining way and insert real bits of life like the actual art pieces you mentioned. I also realize how hard it is to do it well. Thank you for reading.

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