Harley in the Sky is the third novel by Akemi Dawn Bowman. This critically acclaimed author of Starfish has created a book for any lover of the film The Greatest Showman mixed with plentiful emotion and themes of mental health issues.Akemi has such a way of developing the characters and the story which is so beautiful, it makes it really easy to read, even with some of the hard-to-grasp topics that are being presented. I finished it in 2 days, and that was only because I had to force myself to sleep!
Since The Greatest Showman was released, a lot of “circus” books have been circulating. I do love a good circus; I used to go quite often as a child and I can’t help but be drawn towards anything circus related. There is something so special about them, the fact that they travel around the majority of the year entertaining people with their amazing talents (Minus the animal cruelty, of course). Some of them are just so unbelievable that what you are seeing just somehow seems magical, the costumes and the music, the fact that you are in a massive tent which has been re-built over and over again in every town and city they visit - and we all know how difficult it is to put up a normal camping tent! Every word of this book brought out the magic of the circus to me, Akemi has done the world of wonders and amazement justice.
The Greatest Showman has to be one of my favourite movies of all time and this book might possibly be becoming one of my favourite circus novels of all time, if not one of my favourites in general...
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 a rival travelling circus Maison du Mystere. 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 ot 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.
Harley is such a relatable character. She is passionate, complicated, and sacrifices everything she has ever known to pursue her dream. The history for Harley – which is played out throughout the book - makes you realise a smile on someone’s face can hide a lot. She runs away from her problems, runs away from her feelings, literally running away to join a circus because her family don’t agree with her ambitions. Throughout the book there are messages from Harley’s mum which don’t seem that important to start with but when the book progresses you see why Akemi had done this, it gives you more history for the character, and helps develop her story and the relationship with her mother.
There is also a love connection in the novel, Harley and Vas. Even though the majority of the story is Harley’s own development, trying to make friends, not stepping on anyone’s toes, and living her dream of becoming an aerialist, Vas arrives bringing hope, and love that she wasn’t necessarily looking for.
It also has a friendship theme throughout. Sometimes in real life friends do drift apart when they move away, get a new job or just don’t have much time anymore and you see this in the novel. Harley and Chloe slowly, sadly drift apart but not by choice. These things happen and it is hard but it shows how Harley is developing as a person since she has escaped her family life around her and joined Maison du Mystere.
There are so many relatable topics through this magnificent novel, with overpowering parents, friends drifting apart, isolation and mental health – such raw emotion making it sometimes a little difficult to read, but it was understandable why it was needed, for us to truly comprehend just how important the issues are.
Some people know how hard it is to chase a dream, especially when so many people tell you not to, Harley doesn’t let that stop her!
I know it is only early, but this is probably going to definitely be one of my top 10 reads of 2020.
Akemi Dawn Bowman has done it once again!