Review of I Am Here Now

I Am Here Now
by Barbara Bottner
High School    Imprint/Macmillan    347 pp.    g
8/20    978-1-250-20769-2    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-250-20770-8    $9.99

Fourteen-year-old Maisie characterizes her 1960s coming-of-age in the Bronx as “one of those fairy tales / where the witch eats the child.” And for good reason. Her perfume mogul dad has moved out, leaving Maisie and her little brother to the not-so-tender mercies of their mother Judith, an abusive woman whom Maisie grimly compares to Medea. Maisie copes by immersing herself in art and venting to her neighbor Richie, who is waging his own battle against his father, recently returned from Vietnam. Maisie finds a kindred spirit in Kiki, her best friend Rachel’s bohemian mother, and blossoms under her kind attention. But when Maisie starts seeing Rachel’s philandering boyfriend on the sly and Rachel finds out, her thin safety net breaks, and she is forced to turn to the one person she swore she would never ask for help — her father. Bottner’s “somewhat biographical but mostly fictional” first-person novel in verse is rife with wrenching domestic and relationship drama. Maisie’s big emotions are splashed messily across every page, much like the Pollock paintings she admires. Her stormy relationship with her mother is heartbreakingly rendered, such as when she raids Judith’s closet: “I’m trying to wear my mother. / It’s the only way I can get close to her.” A detailed author’s note describes what aspects of Bottner’s adolescence inspired the novel.

From the July/August 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jennifer Hubert Swan
Jennifer Hubert Swan is director of library services and middle school librarian at Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School in New York City. She is also a visiting assistant professor at Pratt Institute School of Information, where she teaches youth literature and library programming. She blogs at Reading Rants.

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