I present to you another book that grapples with graffiti. Unlike in Graffiti Girl by Kelly Parra, The Colour of Trouble by Gerry Bobsien and getting Up by SD Thorpe, here the main character is not the one involved in graffiti. She is an innocent bystander who comes to be embroiled in the whole issue when a piece featuring gorillas goes up on one of the school walls. This book then gave an outsider’s perspective on the issue.
Can Kate Morgan stand up for herself—without being labeled a snitch?
Kate is just as confused as her best friend, Lan, when she arrives at Cleary High to find the building’s been “tagged” with a life-size graffiti mural. Could the culprit be one of their friends or classmates? And is the kind-of-amazing creation really vandalism, or a work of art? She’s tempted to stay out of it—mostly because, as the police chief’s daughter, she’s worried about being labeled a snitch. But when the same mysterious graffiti starts appearing throughout the state, putting more pressure on the authorities to catch the vandal, her investigative instincts kick in.
Now Eli, Kate’s favorite coworker at the local coffee shop, is MIA. With Lan preoccupied with her own boy troubles, Kate needs to figure out some things on her own. Like why she can’t stop thinking about Eli. And what she will do when all the clues about the graffiti point to someone she’s close to…
Kate is the daughter of a cop, so she tries all the more to keep out of trouble. She and her dad have this understanding that neither of them will exchange information linking to any of the police investigations. This means that when her school becomes a target, she is not obliged to tell him anything she knows. Not that she knows much. She is in the dark just as much as everyone else.
Speculations run high as everyone wants to share their opinion. There is so much uproar that Kate’s history teacher allows for a 10-minute debate before each class. I thought that Mara Purnhagen did a good job of presenting the ambiguity between graffiti and art, and also of vandalism without coming across as favouring any stance.
In the course of the book, there were a lot of plot twists which kept the mystery alive almost to the last moment before the culprit is revealed. Of course I formed my own suspicions. They came pretty close for the most part until I realised that there was yet another twist. Given that Tagged is a pretty short book, I must say that it’s quite impressive that the plot wasn’t all that straightforward.
Lan, Kate’s best friend, also added some amusement although I couldn’t quite avoid picturing Lane from Gilmore Girls, even though Lan is Vietnamese while Lane is Korean. Clearly not the same. Maybe it’s just the names. Anyhow, for those who need a minimum dose of romance, no matter what book they read, Tagged serves it too. A love triangle that doesn’t even know it’s one until it’s too late, involving jealousy, drama and regret. I kind of wish Eli’s girlfriend wouldn’t have been part of the story to begin with but I suppose some drama on the side was needed to lengthen the already short book.
Quick read, solid writing, twisting plot. And graffiti! Good stuff but really, if it wasn’t for the graffiti and art aspects, I doubt I would have picked this up. It’s been a couple of weeks since I finished reading it, and I think Eli was the most memorable character because he had a lot more layers than Kate did. Kate seems rather plain, now that I try to recall who she was.