Written in verse, Barbara Bottner takes readers back to the sixties where Maisie is figuring out life as a teenager and seeking that love she rarely receives at home. Readers will find themselves taken on a journey of ups and downs and may even learn a thing or two along the way.
With the novel written in this format, it’s a quick read, but it sees our main character Maisie deal with a lot of issues. Her mother, Judith, hardly shows adoration toward her so she leans toward her father more for the love she’s searching for. Her best friend, Ritchie, also faces a similar problem where his dad is abusive. The plot flowed gradually with Maisie meeting Rachel, her profound best friend who in her eyes, lives the ideal life. Rachel’s parents are intimate and her mother, Kiki, is an artist like her. The family welcomes her with open arms and any child who doesn’t receive a great amount of attention at home would adhere to it someplace else.
The writing itself is raw and it will draw in readers of all ages. Readers a bit older than Maisie, like myself, can reflect back on the first experiences she faces. There are many quotes that will probably stick with readers like they did with me! When I noticed that it was written in verse, I though it wouldn’t be as appealing, but I was wrong. Bottner provides enough information for readers to understand Maisie and what she’s going through yet not too much so that we can make our own judgement.
Maisie herself is a complex character and at times readers will feel empathetic, while other times they’ll get frustrated like myself because of the decisions Maisie has made. Yet I reminded myself what Maisie was going through and why she did because of her impulses. There was little character development with her, I’d say I only noticed it towards the end. However, that makes Maisie all the more genuine!
When Rachel gets a boyfriend, Maisie feels a sense of detachment from Rachel. She also becomes jealous at times and wishes for a boyfriend herself. Maisie does make rash decisions that divides her friendship with Rachel and she distances herself from Ritchie who has to fend for himself when his father gets out of control. At one point, Rachel becomes aggravated that Maisie is always at her house for her mother and not her. To Maisie, Kiki was like a second mother or the one she always wanted, yet any friend would become bitter when their best friend only comes over to hang out with their mother and not them.
On to Maisie’s parents who plays a vital role in her life. They’re the cause of most of her irrational decisions. Maisie’s mother doesn’t show much affection to Maisie and I might be wrong but when Maisie is with her father, her mother becomes upset. She always mentions that she’s her father’s favourite and that maybe explains why Judith is keen towards her son, Davy, compared to Maisie. Their parents don’t get along so it isn’t a surprise that the father doesn’t come home a lot, but when he does, Maisie values every moment of it. Although, as the story progresses, she realises he isn’t as perfect as he appears to be.
Relationships was probably the main theme in this book. Whether it was between parents, friends, sexual, or siblings. For Maisie, all her relationships were tested and some she’d experienced for the first time. She desired love and belonging from others and didn’t stop at anything to achieve them. No matter who got hurt or what she had to do. It really displays what’s important to teenagers at that point in their lives. Bottner played it out so realistically in the end because not everything is rainbows and sunshine.
This novel is bound to take readers on an emotional rollercoaster and makes them reflect on their relationships with others. During this pandemic, it also makes us cherish the small moments we have with loved ones that others can’t have yet crave for. Highly recommend to teenagers, a book worth analysing in class, so I’d suggest this to your English teachers and also for fans of coming-of-age stories!
I Am Here Now is available from Amazon, Book Depository, and other good book retailers, like your local bookstore.
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Synopsis | Goodreads
Set in the 1960s, Barbara Bottner’s I Am Here Now is a beautiful novel in verse about one artist’s coming of age. It’s a heartbreaking, powerful and inspiring depiction of what it’s like to shatter your life―and piece it all back together.
You can’t trust Life to give you decent parents, or beautiful eyes, a fine French accent or an outstanding flair for fashion. No, Life does what it wants. It’s sneaky as a thief.
Maisie’s first day of High school should be exciting, but all she wants is to escape.
Her world is lonely and chaotic, with an abusive mother and a father who’s rarely there to help.
So when Maisie, who finds refuge in her art, meets the spirited Rachel and her mother, a painter, she catches a glimpse of a very different world―one full of life, creativity, and love―and latches on.
But as she discovers her strengths through Rachel’s family, Maisie, increasingly desperate, finds herself risking new friendships, and the very future she’s searching for.