Review: Into the Dangerous World by Julie Chibbaro + Favorite Art from the Novel

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 18, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: n/a
Ror was raised on a commune with her dad as the leader. She never attended a day of school, but she can build a house, or cut down a tree with a chainsaw. All she really cares about is drawing and painting. To her, it’s like breathing; it’s how she makes sense of the world.

When her father burns down the commune with himself inside, she ends up in Manhattan, where the streets are filled with art. There she runs into trouble - and falls into crazy love - with Trey, the leader of Noise Ink, a graffiti crew.

On the city’s streets, and in its museums and galleries, Ror finds herself pulled in different directions. Her father wanted her to learn the classics. Noise Ink insists she stay within their lines. Her teacher urges her to go to college. What does she want? What kind of artist is she?

Ror’s journey is a seamless blend of words and pictures, cinematic in its scope - a sharp-edged, indelible creation that will live inside your head.

This book was quite unexpected, but in a very good way.
I have to admit, I was ready to feel indifferent towards this book. The cover and the synopsis didn't really appeal to me, but I picked it up because I was intrigued by the art. I flipped through the book, and some were beautiful while others were strange and the graffiti made me cringe (more on that later). But as I kept reading Into the Dangerous World I was absorbed by Ror and her journey of self-discovery. 

First, of all I didn't know going in that Into the Dangerous World was set in the 1980s in New York City. The synopsis mentioned Ror growing up in a commune, but that didn't click with me. The time and place really added a different dimension to the story. I really enjoyed it all the more.

The story began with a bang. Ror's father burst into her room with a large roll of paper and was spouting about how he was going to save her. But he ended up burning down the commune, with him trapped inside. This left Ror, her older sister and mom homeless. They had to leave Staten Island and moved into a really crappy apartment and live on food stamps. Ror lived her whole life in the commune and Manhattan was a different world. All she had was her art, which was heavily influenced by her father. She ended up meeting Trey at school and she joined their graffiti crew called Noise Ink. She's exposed to a different kind of art that went against what her father taught her.

I'm not an art person. I do have some vague knowledge of different art styles and some classic and modern artists. The novel mentioned Dadaism a few times and I was able to associate it with art pieces in my head. That was a really fun for me. It brought me back to the Art 101 class I took in college years ago and I realized that I remember quite a bit from the class. This novel also name dropped a lot of artist names and it spurred some Googling on my part, and that was really fun as well.

The biggest impact Into the Dangerous World had on me was about graffiti. I've always associated graffiti with vandalism and didn't really give it much attention. When I see new graffiti on walls as I'm driving or walking in my neighborhood, my first thought was the delinquents struck again. When I first flipped through the book to look at the pictures and saw the graffiti, I was skeptical. But I got a different perspective on it from reading this novel. I didn't know about the unique tags names--it just looked like scribble scrabble to me--and its meaning to the individual. I haven't completely changed my mind about it (as an art form, it's not really my cup of tea) but I've come to appreciate graffiti art a bit more. It bears looking at a little more closely.

If you want a different kind of read, definitely pick up Into the Dangerous World. If you're an artist or interested in art discussion, you should definitely pick this book up. But if you're like me and not very well-versed in visual art, you'll enjoy it anyway. It was wonderfully written with an interesting main character, and the art pieces were striking and, at times, thought-provoking and really added to the story and Ror's journey as an artist. It brought up a lot interesting discussion about art and being an artist. To me, it's not a book that's going to stand out on its own among the other flashier YA titles, but if you pick it up you'll be surprised at how really good it is. I really enjoyed it, so much more than I ever thought I would. I hope you all give Into the Dangerous World a chance.

Favorite art piece from the novel: It was really hard to chose just one favorite, but I went with this one. The very first time I looked at it I just saw the ear. Then, I had to stop and look back and then I saw the fist. I've always loved hidden picture art and this one is really awesome.

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