Kilroy Dondi Vance is an eighteen-year-old mixed-race Brooklynite who deals pot and goes to prep school on scholarship, all while growing up in the shadow of his absentee father, Billy Rage, a legendary graffiti writer who disappeared from New York City in 1989 following a public feud with MTA police chief Anastacio Bracken.
Now it’s 2005. Bracken is running for mayor of New York City. And who should Dondi discover on a rooftop in Brooklyn but his father, newly returned to the city and ready to settle the score. The return of Rage and the mayoral race of Bracken prompt a reunion of every graffiti writer who mattered in the 1980s—in order to thwart Bracken with the greatest graffiti stunt New York City has ever seen.
Rage Is Back delivers a mind-bending journey through a subterranean world of epic heroes and villains. Moving through the city’s unseen communities, from the tunnel camps of the Mole People to the drug dens of Crown Heights, Rage Is Back is many things: a dramatic, hilarious thrill ride; a love letter to NYC that introduces the most powerful urban underdog narrator this side of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and a literary tour de force from a writer on the brink of real stardom.
I really enjoyed this book. I don’t know much about the history of graffiti and I’ve never been to New York, but this book introduced me to both in a really fun way. Dondi is such a great protagonist with a unique voice and ways of describing things in a way that made me laugh and stay connected to the story. At times, he seems way too cool, but at other times, he’s vulnerable and honest and seems younger than he is. Dondi is a complex character with a complicated relationship with his parents. As his father re-enters his life, Dondi is forced to confront his relationship with his parents and figure out what he wants from life. The absent father plot device is over used and cliche in a lot of ways, but it doesn’t feel like that in this novel.
With New York City and the graffiti subculture as its background, this book weaves a fantastic story with a colorful cast of characters. Even though there are some elements of the bizarre in this book and some of the slang was way over my head, I highly recommend it to everyone.
- Rage is Back: graffiti crews save NYC from its lurking demons (boingboing.net)
- Adam Mansbach rekindles the golden age of graffiti in ‘Rage is Back’ (miamiherald.com)
- Author Adam Mansbach Talks About New Found Interest in Graffiti And Writing His New Novel on It (booksnreview.com)