Art Boss: (Young Adult Fiction, Aspiring Artist Story, Novel for Teens)

Art Boss: (Young Adult Fiction, Aspiring Artist Story, Novel for Teens)

by Kayla Cagan


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Artist Piper Perish has moved from her hometown of Houston, Texas, to New York City. Her days are spent exploring; her nights are filled with painting. It's her lifelong dream come true . . . . Except life in the city isn't as glamorous as it looks from afar. Piper's high-pressure work as an assistant to a famous modern artist takes away time from her own art. And Piper's new friend Grace, a budding activist, has Piper beginning to wonder if making great art is really enough.

In a story that stands alone but can be read as a companion novel to Piper Perish, acclaimed author Kayla Cagan returns with Piper's powerful and utterly authentic journey of growing up into a strong, independent young woman—as she learns how to make life about art, and how to make that art matter. Art Boss will have readers asking big questions along with Piper. What is art for? What can art do? And how can a young artist change the world?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781452160375
Publisher: Chronicle Books LLC
Publication date: 10/02/2018
Pages: 344
Sales rank: 528,411
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Kayla Cagan is a writer and playwright based in Los Angeles. Her first book, Piper Perish, received universal praise and was a Barnes & Noble Best Book of the Month.

Read an Excerpt



8/12 3:13 pm

How can so much happen in three days?

I'm here! I made it! The Dream! I lost my journal somewhere in LaGuardia, I can't freaking believe it. I even called the airport to see if someone turned it in, but nope, so I'm starting new with this notebook. Now I'm drinking an iced coffee and writing on the subway train like I live here or something and I do because this is my life!

This couple balancing against the train pole in front of me are in a fight. She just said, "What did you expect from a new hire? They're never as good as they seem on paper" and he said, "Just once, I'd like you to have my back" and she said, "Nothing's what it seems, I told you that." Now they're glaring at each other and he just turned away to his phone. DRAMA!

Oh, so many good overhears and quotes just by being alive in New York. I love all the accents and funny shit I'm hearing.

"Nothing's what it seems." –Woman on the train

And I'm totally feeling that because everything is weirder than I thought, both good and bad weird and not at all what I've been expecting!

The guy with the dark blond hair I thought was Jamie Silas at the airport? Nope! Just a guy waiting for someone else. Mortifying.

Staying in a big loft apartment? Not even. I mean, not like I was promised that I guess I just kinda assumed, and as Dad says, "Assume makes an ass out of U and me." Yep, that's me for sure. My apartment at the Webster Residence for Women (that's what it's called!) is super tiny and plain old weird, but um, I also kind of love it. The look is sooo Metro-Retro. I came up with that.

Scheduling an appt. with NYSCFA? That's what Helen my aid advisor said to do once I was here, but they are all backed up dealing with current incoming students and that kind of made me feel like a loser. I can't meet with Helen until September at least. No big deal, just worrying my brain out until then.

Meeting Carlyle and Kennedy? Tomorrow. I've had to wait a whole four days, which is kind of awesome because I've got to run around and settle in some but I'm so ready to get started!

Oh, and bringing enough clothes? Try again, I've already sweated through everything I own. Guess I have to shop. Poor me.

Everything has been a total bizarro version of what I thought. Tonight I go on a do-over date with Silas since our first the night I got here was a disaster. Hoping that things might go better, but that whole online love connection thing? Yeah, I dunno. IRL, not sure either of us is feeling it. Yet.

I need Kit and Enzo to be here to see all of this but that's not gonna happen so I texted them that I'm posting new sketches online and they can check out the local scene whenever they want — and I can keep them all together for me, too, like a little #NYSeen city-sketching home-base collection. That's me, the real-deal real-local now. Ha. Kit, my OG bestie best of all times, said: Thank god. Been waiting for the Piper Perspective! and Enzo, my second best bestie/greatest hometown heartbreak and newly out main man wrote: Brilliant! Loves it, Needs it!

8/13 2:15 am

Silas is scrawny and curved in, like if a human was a comma, his silhouette is all bow and he has sleek black hair and the greenest eyes and really, really pale skin, like watery skim milk. He's got a cool super-sharp dimple, almost like a scar, that runs up his pale pink cheeks. It was like meeting a real live Edward Gorey character. I didn't know how tonight would go, with just the two of us, since Mo (the roommate) came the last time. At least Mo's funny even if he's kind of pretentious. He talks about himself in the third person: "Mo doesn't do that, Mo is happy to meet you." The opposite of Silas, who's real down on himself.

Tonight, Si was wearing a thin black T-shirt, faded black jeans, black Converse, and a tan backpack when he met me in front of the Web. I wore the black dress I wore on the plane — I Febreezed it first! — with my Adidas, and matte red lips. We looked pretty cool.

He looked down at the paper bag I had with me. "Do a little shopping?"

"You'll have to wait and see." I pulled it closer to me, careful not to crush it. I kept sneaking peeks at him. His dimple is cute. Maybe he's cute. He is definitely friend-cute, but I don't know if he is boyfriend-cute. All summer, I had known for sure that he was boyfriend-cute. Dang.

We crossed the gold-yellow safety line painted on the train platform and got on the A train. The line is the same shade of sunflower on the city cabs, marigold-mustard. There were so many people crammed in our subway car and I was trying not to push against anyone, but I couldn't get to one of the bars that were over our heads and he just kind of slid between me and this other dude and moved my hand to the bar and said, "Don't worry, we only have a few stops," which was the first Summer-Silas thing he'd done since I'd met him, which made me happy, even though I was smushed between a guy shouting about how it was "too fucking hot," which was true but don't yell dude we're all dealing with it, and another guy behind me who was taking up way too much room just so he could balance himself while reading an opened-up newspaper. So annoying. Obviously he didn't care about the rest of us squeezed in! Thank god not all rides are squeezy-squeezy like that.

"We're eating at one of my favorite places," Silas said. "But it's not fancy."

"WHAT? Why, I never!" I put my hand to my mouth like, the horror!

I got him to laugh. Victory! Things weren't tense over email this summer but in front of each other, we're both real awkward.

"You know this is on me, right?"

He said it in a way that was both a question and an answer.

"What do you mean?" I thought I got what he was asking but I wasn't sure.

"I don't want to assume —"

"I don't want to assume either," I said.

Then we goofed at each other, kind of waiting for the other person to say the next thing.

He finally said, "I don't know how they do it in Texas, but I would like this to be a date."

"Me too," I said and reached for his arm. Maybe Si had never had a girlfriend before. Huh, I hadn't imagined that until then.

We got to Tavern on Jane and the waiter appeared almost immediately. "Well if it isn't Mr. Sunshine himself. I see you put on your best T-shirt this evening, youngster."

"This is Piper," he said, introducing me to Harvey.

"What can I get started for you guys?"

"Um ... how are the spaghetti and meatballs?" I asked and he said, "Marvelous" and took my menu. Silas ordered a grilled hangar steak with fries and Harvey went off to put in our order. I could see the POS machine was the same one we used when I was waitressing at the 610 but then I felt Silas watching me and I tried to make my face normal. How could I explain feeling comforted just seeing the same work computer program we had at our diner back home?

"So, when should I start calling you Mr. Sunshine?"

"Ha. Yeah, no thanks. I've known Harv since I was a kid. When you've lived here your whole life, the city" (Note to self: the city, not New York City! The train, not the subway!) "is pretty small town. Everybody knows everybody, for better or worse."

Harvey was back at the table with calamari. Calamari!

"Chef says have a wonderful night out, guys."

"Mr. Sunshine for the win!" I tapped my glass to his Coke and said, "Cheers, Si."

He smirked or looked embarrassed, I couldn't tell which.

"Here," I said, handing him the paper bag around the table.

"Open it!"

A new Silas in two seconds flat: His smile was lit, dimple half his cheek.

"Could it be —" He started to tear through the tissue paper and then sat back. "You didn't."

"You said you wanted one!"

"I can't believe it!" He said, pulling out the brand-spanking-new cowboy hat. I was pretty sure it was the exact midnight blue-black he liked.

"I can't believe I have a genuine cowboy hat from Texas." He put it on his head. "How's this?"

I tipped it down in the front, just a little. "You're the real deal, dude."

He checked himself out in the mirror behind the bar and did a little mosey back to our table. "I belong in this hat. Yee-fucking-haw."

I had never seen anyone so happy to be wearing one. It didn't really match his look, but he didn't care and I was delighted he was showing me anything other than nerves and weirdness! On the first date, he barely talked to me, except to explain why he wasn't at the airport (a last-minute school orientation thing, I understand, I wouldn't want to miss anything cool going on either, but still, really? He could have emailed me! Guess I'm not quite over that yet ...) and other than that, he and Mo just talked like almost the whole time. It was so weird. At least we can text each other now.

Harvey put our dinners down on the table. He straightened Silas's hat and said to me, "Who does he think he is, Johnny Cash?" Then he winked and walked away.

Si was still beaming. It was like it was the first time anybody had ever gotten him anything. Maybe he needed it.

"I wish I had something for you." Something clicked when he said that and he was back to robotic/awkward.

"It's okay," I said. "You'll make it up to me." I was working my eyelashes overtime, trying to flirt again.

"Let's eat."


I expected to be all nerves around him, not vice versa. Maybe the idea of a New York boyfriend was better over email than over calamari. On the bright side my spaghetti and meatballs were better than anything I had eaten at the Web so far. It's awesome that the Web comes with free meals, but like ... the free part is the best part. The meals, not so much.

"So tell me more about Mo," I said, hating to do it but not knowing what else to talk about. "What's his story?"

Silas drained his Coke.

"The thing is," he said, wiping his mouth, "Mo is a really decent guy. He can rub some people the wrong way, but that's just how he is. Honest. He's not afraid to tell the truth. So he'll tell me if I make something that sucks."

"Oh yeah, I got that impression!" I leaned in, relaxing. "But I bet you don't make anything that sucks."

Si winced. "Well. I don't know about that. But anyway, the thing is, he's in a little trouble."

"Like, with the law?"

"What?" Silas snorted, right next door to a smile. "No, at school.

So OK, he focuses on food politics. He designs his work out of food, then lets it decay. That's part of the work, the time and the rot. It's his comment on consumerism and commercialism and time and food culture, but sometimes it causes him to miss deadlines. Our profs are kind of sticklers for turning stuff in on time. You'll see."

"Wow. His work sounds epic. And really smelly." I laughed, but it did made me feel like an ounce more cool toward Mo. Like he was doing something semi-thoughtful, in addition to being a know-it-all.

"Agreed, especially when you live with him. But the faculty was really stubborn last semester, and they might have clashed."


"Okay," he laughed, "did. Don't say anything, but ..."

I put my fork down mid-meatball and held up my Scout fingers.

"He's on probation."



"They can do that? Just cause he's working with food? Didn't they know that when they accepted him? They shouldn't kick him out."

"Don't say any of that in front of him — please. He'll accuse me of dooming him as a failure. I don't really think they're aiming to push him out, I think it's more about him not meeting his deadlines, and his attitude defending his work. They encourage us to stick up for ourselves as artists, as creative warriors —" I must have made a face because Si was like, "School motto. But then when we test it by disagreeing with them, it's like we're messing with the gods. It's all one big pissing contest. They try to break us down to build us back up. Some students practically get away with murder. Mo can't. I can't. Someone like Gillman, for example" — he shook his head — "he could give them an empty water bottle and they'd pee their pants."


"Joe Gillman. I might have mentioned him in an email. Or not. I try not to think about him."

"So, he's not good."

Silas shrugged and tried to get another another sip out of his Coke, shaking the ice around the glass. "Depends on how you define good."

"Does Gillman also work with food?" I smirked. "Is it like Iron Chef between them?"

"No, Mo's the only food geek." He smiled and plucked up a fry. "Lucky for us."

"So what's that guy do that's so great the teachers love him so much?" All the talk about Mo's probation makes me nervous. I'll have to up my game when I finally start classes in January. I'm not great with deadlines either.

"The faculty thinks he's changing the world being a 'conceptualist.'"

"What is that?" God, I need school. I don't know any of these terms. Si probably sees the big flashing lights over my head blinking IDIOT-IDIOT.

"You ready for this?" Silas did a drumroll with his fingers. "He has a lot of concepts. And that's his art. His concepts."

"That's it?" He nodded and I have to admit, I had a flash of excitement that we were finally gossiping about art the way I thought we always would. "I don't get it."

"Well, I suppose you're not a genius, then." His dimple popped up.

"That's so gimmicky." We were both laughing.

"Yeah, but he has them wrapped around his finger. He had a 'show' where it was an empty gallery space, and there was nothing inside of it except for a sign-in book, wine, and cheese. And people wandered around, looking at the white walls, with lights shining where art should have been hanging, and he had just written in really faint script, "Untitled Concept 1, 2, 3, etc ..."

"And that worked?"

Si nodded and was shaking his head at the same time.

"I wish I saw it just because it sounds so awful. Maybe he's an idiot AND a genius."

"You got the first part right. But anyway, that's why Mo's a little more ... clingy this semester, why he wanted me to go with him and I missed meeting you at the airport. It wasn't really an orientation. It was a probation hearing for him. I met him afterward, before we met you for dinner."

Aha! Well. Si lied for his friend. I can't go back and ask him to fix three days ago but I wish he had just been honest about it. I was going to say something and then he said, "He gets a little paranoid. I know he comes off as confident, but he gets pretty down, and I was worried."

"You're a good friend." Kit and Enzo had come to my rescue too many times to count. I couldn't blame the guy for helping his bud. I was kind of touched by what a true blue he was. Even if so far he was kind of a lame crush.

"Yeah, you get it." Even though he didn't really know if I got it or not, it felt good hearing him say so.

I finally felt relaxed for a second. "Well, that explains why he's so uptight. I'd love to see some of Mo's work and y'know, yours, too."

"Right, yeah."

"Because now I know about Mo's work. And Joe's work. Ha, that rhymes! But um, it's your art that I want to see." Silas finished off his plate, nodding. I waited for more of an invitation. "Like before next semester starts?" I said, pushing. "You could come see the stuff I'm making for Carlyle, too. I could use some real feedback. I have to impress him, like kill it, or I could be like on probation with him, too. Or worse, just out, period, back to Texas."

"Nah, he won't fire you. He needs you."

That kind of made me a little pissy. How did he know? Even I hadn't met the guy yet. I had no real idea what I was walking into. "Maybe not exactly the same, but we're both making art that's being judged, right? And Carlyle could actually fire me anytime he feels like it. Which would be worse than probation."

He shrugged. "Okay, maybe he will, but I doubt it. Your work is strong. Mine stuff is all wip."

"Wimpy?" I had never heard anyone call their art wimpy before.

"WIP. W-I-P. Work in progress."

Omg, I need school. I am legit-talk deficient.

"You already know what you're making for Carlyle and you know how it ends."

"Actually, I don't know how any of it ends. I've only talked with him on the phone. We haven't even met face-to-face yet. My job working for him could end this week if he doesn't like my art in real life."

"Doubtful. But you're missing the point."

"Excuse you?" I laughed but I kind of wanted to thump him.

"You have an endpoint and I'm in this endless loop. I'm back in lab at school and all the photos I've been shooting this summer, they aren't telling my story. I thought it would all come to me, match up and make sense and it all's missing links. Nothing's connecting. No story."

"Well, what is your story?"

He shook his head. "You wouldn't get it."

I narrowed my eyes and crossed my arms. "Because?"


Excerpted from "Art Boss"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Kayla Cagan.
Excerpted by permission of Chronicle Books LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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