Written in verses, 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. Bottner takes us on a journey of ups and downs where on the way readers learn a thing or two.
Written in this format, it’s a quick read but deals with a lot of issues our main character, Maisie faces. 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 substantial amount of attention at home would adhere to it some place else.
"Maybe if my mother didn't spit out my name like a curse and my father didn't use our front door like the turnstile in the IRT, the opposite sex wouldn't seem so intriguing and so absolutely necessary." - 9% into the book
The writing itself is raw and draws readers in from all ages. Readers older than Maisie, like myself, can reflect on the first experiences she faces. There are many quotes that will probably stick with readers as they did with me! When I noticed that Bottner wrote it in verses, I thought 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 we can make our own judgment.
Maisie herself is a complex character and at times readers will feel empathetic while other times they’ll get frustrated like me 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. Yet that makes Maisie more genuine!
"She gives me a look that would go well with a gun." - 22% into the book
When Rachel gets a boyfriend, Maisie feels a sense of detachment from Rachel. She also becomes jealous and wishes for a boyfriend herself. I’d like to keep this spoiler-free. Maisie makes rash decisions that divide her friendship with Rachel. She distances 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.
Onto Maisie’s parents who play 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 favorite. That maybe explains why Judith is keen on 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. Yet when he does, Maisie values every moment of it. Although, as the story progresses, she realizes he isn’t as perfect as he appears to be.
"She's ice. I'm fire. When I look in the mirror, I see thunder." - 30% into the book
Relationships were probably the principal theme in this book. Whether it was between parents, friends, sexual, or siblings. For Maisie, it tested all her relationships. Some she’d experience 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 make 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 craved. Highly recommend to teenagers, a book worth analyzing in class, so I’d suggest this to your English teachers and also for lovers of Coming of Age!