Into the Dangerous World by Julie Chibbaro
Art by JM Superville Sovak
Publisher: Viking, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 2015
Genre: Realism, Art, Street Art, YA
Format: Soft Cover, ARC
After her father burns the commune to the ground – killing himself in the process – Ror moves with her sister and mother into a homeless residence in Manhattan. While everything around her falls apart, Ror uses her art to make sense of it all. Then she meets Trey and his graffiti crew and falls in love with the excitement and danger of graffiti. Pulled in opposite directions by Trey’s convincing explanation of fame and her father’s classical influence, Ror struggles to find herself and answer the defining question: “What kind of artist am I?”
So, for me, this book was kind of a mixed bag because while I was pretty disappointed in some aspects, I thought others were really smart and unique. For my own reading experience, the book simply wasn’t what I was expecting because I have an ARC. I was a little confused between the the blurb on the back and what I’d assume is the jacket flap copy, which I didn’t find until later. The paragraph on the back seems to be a summary of the book but leaves out some pretty important elements, like Ror’s childhood in a commune and the fact that her father doesn’t just die; he sets the commune on fire with himself and his family still inside. The jacket flap is definitely more accurate, so really, this was more of an issue with my expectations than the book itself.
I do think the pacing in this book is really well done. I read it quickly and easily, and I felt like the story was moving at a good rate to keep my attention. It also ended on a fairly hopeful tone for Ror. But I felt that there were really quite a few plot holes and unnecessary, stereotypical characters for me to really like it. Ror’s mother is best identified by her knitting, her sister is a perfect, goody-two-shoes tattletale, the owner of the art store is bafflingly kind to Ror, even after she’s stolen from him, yelled at him, and taken quite a few free supplies for granted. I didn’t find that I really liked any of the characters, including Ror.
I also really disliked the way this book pitted the female characters against one another, particularly Ror and Nessa. Although Nessa says she tried to be Ror’s friend, it’s pretty clear that they don’t like each other, and by the end of the book, I can’t say that I blame Nessa for her anger. Ror’s love interest is Nessa’s boyfriend, and while Trey and Nessa’s relationship does sound pretty dysfunctional, you don’t try to steal another girl’s boyfriend, especially if you want her to like you.
The art in this book is one of the aspects I liked the most because there’s actual art throughout the book. With different styles from more traditional to cartoony to graffiti-inspired, I really thought the illustrations were a great contribution to the text. This is the only art-themed novel I’ve read this month that actually incorporated art – why isn’t there more of this?!
My concern with the art is that I’m not really sure where we’re supposed to end up on the classical vs. graffiti spectrum. Throughout the whole book, Ror is conflicted about what kind of artist she is and how she should work. I think we’re supposed to understand that she creates her own rules and doesn’t really follow either idea completely. However, I’m not sure that’s actually achieved. Without any spoilers – and feel free to let me know if you disagree – but I think the end of the novel sets her up on a very specific path that emphasizes one style over the other. Overall, although I loved the inclusion of art itself, the discussion of art in the text was disappointing.
For more information:
Author Julie Chibbaro’s official website
Artist JM Superville Sovak’s official website
This is the official website for Into the Dangerous World. Okay, I really, really like this website. You can find plenty of art, YA, videos, and interviews here. This website is what I wanted this book to be. Go check it out now!
There are a ton of resources for artists and inspiration listed throughout the back of this book, some of which are included on the official website. I know people don’t usually actually check out the biographies in the back of the book – this time you 100% should!
In terms of the writing, particularly the father-daughter relationship and unsatisfactory characters, this book reminded me a lot of Dancing on the Edge. You can check out my review for that book HERE.
** 2.5 stars
Ror faces competing influences with her deceased father’s interest in classic, established artists and the exciting energy of New York’s most popular graffiti crews.
Conflicting, problematic text
Uniqueness and strength in art