I Am Here Now

Imprint. Aug. 2020. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250207692.
Gr 8 Up–Fourteen-year-old budding artist Maisie chronicles her life as a white and Jewish girl in the Bronx via verse. Her mother is physically and emotionally abusive while her father is mostly absent; Maisie and her brother Davy are set against each other in a battle to stay safe. As Maisie begins high school she befriends Rachel and soon, Rachel’s artist mother Kiki. Maisie is entranced by this family who encourages her dreams of becoming an artist as her own home life unravels. But when Maisie gets too close to Rachel’s boyfriend Gino, relationships crumble. Bottner paints a sympathetic portrait of a teen in flux, but this tale may not resonate with readers. The 1960s setting falls flat, as the time period has no real effect on the story. Maisie’s attempts to connect with others as she grapples with her budding sexuality and searches for love engenders sympathy. The short chapters of verse help to convey Maisie’s artistic talent. There are descriptions of emotional and physical abuse, as well as sex on the page (though not graphic).
VERDICT A heartwrenching story about a 1960s aspiring artist trying to find her place in world as those closest to her let her down repeatedly, this novel in verse may fail to connect with modern readers.

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