Also by this author: Starfish, Summer Bird Blue
Published by Ink Road on March 10, 2020
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Akemi Dawn Bowman is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. She excels at creating characters and stories that are just so incredibly relatable. I loved her first two books, Starfish and Summer Bird Blue, but I have to admit I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t connect as much to her latest novel, Harley in the Sky, since it is set in the world of the circus and focuses on a girl’s dream of becoming a trapeze artist. My worry was completely unfounded though because at its heart, Harley in the Sky is a beautiful coming of age story about the search for identity and following one’s dreams.
The story follows Harley Milano, a young woman who has grown up in her parent’s Las Vegas-based circus. Harley has dreamed of flying high as an aerialist for as long as she can remember and has even trained with her parents’ performers whenever possible. When Harley turns 18, she approaches her parents to tell them she wants to train full-time and become one of their aerialists. To her shock and dismay, her parents shut her down completely. She is going to college, no ifs ands or buts about it. Harley is crushed by her parent’s reaction and rebels by leaving home and joining a rival traveling circus.
Harley’s growth as a character is what really drew me into this story. She is a flawed and very realistic character and one that many will relate to. She’s stubborn and headstrong, prone to make rash and emotional decisions, and she’s all too willing to hurt and betray others to follow her dream. Her journey is a hard one for her as well though. It’s filled with hard work, disappointment, and at first, a great deal of loneliness as she must come to terms with what she has done and gradually work her way to accepting responsibility for the hurt she has caused if she has any hope of reconciling with her family.
Her journey is not all hard times though in that she makes some great new friends in the traveling circus and even meets a sweet boy named Vas. While there is a romantic element there, Vas’ role is so much more than that as Harley is able to talk to him and work through her feelings in a way that she hasn’t been able to with anyone else.
Harley in the Sky is also a story about identity. In addition to the struggle she faces regarding her need for independence to pursue her dream, Harley is also struggling with who she is. She comes from a multi-racial family and is equal parts Chinese, Japanese, Italian, and American. In Harley’s mind, she is so little of each of them that she feels like none of them.
Harley in the Sky was an emotional read for me on a couple of different levels. I found myself wrapped up, not only in Harley’s journey, but I was also caught up in Bowman’s gorgeous writing as she vividly captures the atmosphere of the circus and gave me several moments of nostalgia from my own childhood of watching those performers make magic and fly through the air. If you’re into coming of age stories that are sure to take you back to your own journey to adulthood and independence, be sure to check out Harley in the Sky.