FICTION

Harley in the Sky

Simon Pulse/S. & S./. Mar. 2020. 416p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781534437128.
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Gr 8 Up–Harley Hoshi Milano is proud of her biracial heritage, and she dreams big: She wants to be an aerialist—a trapeze artist, the circus’s final act and its biggest star. Her parents, operators of the Teatre della Notte bigtop in Las Vegas, NV, know stardust is illusory, and push Harley toward college instead. Harley rebels, joining Maison du Mystère, a traveling circus. She steals her father’s original musical score and trades it for a mentorship with Mystère’s Maggie, a renowned aerialist. Overwhelmed by her own chutzpah, she channels scenes from “Harry Potter” novels and Star Wars to stay calm. Harley realizes that, like her, most of the members of this troupe feel like they’re on the fringe, and she uses that to befriend a few clowns, jugglers, and knife-throwers, who encourage her talent as she blends into their community. Belonging doesn’t erase Harley’s problems as a runaway, however; she must try to make amends, or grow up knowing that she betrayed her parents, without ever having asked their forgiveness. Running away with the circus is a metaphor for coming of age that comes off a bit strained here, although it may interest readers who actually want to know how circus performers live and work together.
VERDICT A teenager breaks from her parents and joins a traveling circus, in an otherwise predictable story about running away from home.

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