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Harley in the Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Harley in the Sky

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"Harley Milano has dreamed of becoming a trapeze artist for as long as she can remember. With parents who run a famous circus in Las Vegas, she spends almost every night in the big top watching their lead aerialist perform, wishing with all her heart and soul that she would be up there herself one day. After a huge fight with her parents, who continue to insist she go to school instead, Harley leaves home, betrays her family, and joins the rival traveling circus Maison du Mystère. There, she is thrust into a world that is both brutal and beautiful, where she learns the value of hard work, passion and collaboration."

At the core of the book is Harley's search to follow her dreams, find herself and a family that accepts her for everything that she is. In some parts of the book, she is blinded by the lights of the circus at the potential cost of her dreams - but her journey of self-acceptance and realising the consequences of her actions is beautiful to follow.

She feels like such an authentic teenager, headstrong and ambitious, but also deeply caring and being torn by her love of her family and her need to break free. Bowman really places you into Harley's shoes and you feel every emotion with her. For me, she was a brilliantly complex heroine that I would happily spend more time with.

The circus was such a good choice of setting, as you feel the same awe as Harley while you're immersed into this magical but harsh world of performance. Like the tricks they're pulling, people aren't as straightforward as they seem in this world, often hiding behind a facade. Watching these slowly and subtly break down was gorgeous to witness, culminating in some of my favourite moments of the book.

I loved how the romance in the book built up naturally and wasn't just insta-love and then easygoing. It had real challenges and turns, as do most normal relationships. Within these two characters, there was such an excellent discussion around heritage, belonging and mental health that really resonated with me. Bowman always manages to handle these topics with deft care and grace, never shying away from the darker realities of hitting the bottom.

Harley in the Sky was a memorable, completely entrancing read that just cemented Bowman's status as a phenomenal writer whose work I will always pick up!