Today, I’m honoured to be taking part in the blog tour for Harley in the Sky. Thank you so much to Laura O’Donnell and Ink Road Books for including me and sending me a copy of this incredibly powerful book in exchange for an honest review.
Trigger warnings: depression, mood swings, references to suicidal ideation, heart attack
Harley Milano has dreamed of being 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 soul that she could 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. But at the same time, Harley must come to terms with the truth of her family and her past—and reckon with the sacrifices she made and the people she hurt in order to follow her dreams.
After falling in love with Starfish and Summer Bird Blue, Akemi Dawn Bowman became not only an auto-buy author, but one of my favourites. Her writing is always stunning and her discussion around identity and finding your own way is brilliant. Harley surpassed my expectations entirely, reaffirming my love for Bowman’s work.
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 to 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!
Thank you again to Laura O’Donnell and Ink Road Books for including me and sending me an early copy of this amazing book in exchange for an honest review and please check out the other amazing posts on this blog tour!