Review: getting Up

wpid-9781743341964_getting-Up_covergetting Up by SD Thorpe covers a momentous week in the life of Paul aka Roket, a  sixteen year old ‘Toy’ or burgeoning graffiti writer.

Bored, lonely, horny and pissed off,  Roket has dropped out of school and is largely left to fend for himself by his messed up mother. He subsists on Maccas and whatever he can manage to scrape together at home.  ‘Getting up’ — creating graffiti — with his crew is the only thing that gives structure to his days. And even the cops Roket encounters grudgingly admit he’s got talent. But when a battle between two graf crews turns deadly, the fall out could make or break him.

The target audience might be young adults, but there is much for not-so-young adults to enjoy. As well as a good yarn, getting Up offers insight into Melbourne’s social history in the late-1980, specifically its graffiti history.

Melbourne through Roket’s eyes is a landscape of tags, burners, throwups and pieces (check the glossary for definitions). The action often takes place in the city’s hidden parts: laneways, billboard sidings, train carriage roofs, abandoned abattoirs.

Keith Haring’s visit to Collingwood Tech in 1984 gets a mention, as does the ‘wicked’ graf he created. ‘Old school, but cool,’ as Roket puts it.

There are references to the ‘real old school’ political graffiti of the 1960s and early 1970s, when ‘graffiti used to say something’, as one of the older characters laments.

And in the background of the story, the Berlin Wall is coming down, news reports noting that parts of the wall with good graffiti are in hot demand.

A couple of minor niggles notwithstanding (e.g. reference to Centrelink eight years before it was established), getting Up ticks all the boxes as a highly entertaining read that places credible, sympathetic characters in a fascinating context.

I’d hazard that even readers who view graffiti as visual pollution rather than art will come away from reading getting Up with new insight into what motivates this form of self-expression — be it boredom, passion, bravado or the desire to belong.

getting Up is published by Momentum Books in electronic format. Available here.

About Angela Savage

Angela Savage is a Melbourne writer, who has lived and travelled extensively in Asia. She won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript, and the Scarlet Stiletto Award short story award. Her latest novel is, Mother of Pearl, published by Transit Lounge. Angela holds a PhD in Creative Writing, is former CEO of Writers Victoria, and currently works as CEO of Public Libraries Victoria.
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5 Responses to Review: getting Up

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Angela – What an interesting-sounding book! And it’s so good to hear that it’s just as appealing to no-longer-teenage adults as it is to the YA crowd. It takes skill to do a teen protagonist well, especially if you add into that the history element. Glad you enjoyed it.


    • angelasavage says:

      I don’t know about you, Margot, but I like to read at least one YA novel a year and this was a good one. I’m keen for one of my younger adult friends to read it to see if they agree with me.


  2. kathy d. says:

    I liked the graffiti of years ago in my city — good art, interesting messages.
    And kudos to the amazing artist Keith Haring. He is missed.


    • angelasavage says:

      I agree with you about Keith Haring. I noticed recently that his work from 1984 is currently under restoration. Thank goodness. There was a scandal in Melbourne recently when overzealous city officials had a Banksy piece painted over.


  3. Pingback: Art versus graffiti: Who calls the shots? | Angela Savage

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