By Cynthia Bujnicki
All Harley wants is to be an aerialist in the circus, but her parents have different plans. For them it is college or nothing at all. Feeling alone, Harley does the only thing she thinks she can do: runs away and joins a traveling circus. It’s not the glamour she though it would be but it is a chance, one she clings to and fights for, proving to everyone, including herself, just how much her dreams mean to her.
What a beautiful novel. The prose is merely exceptional highlighting an impactful tone and narrative as it follows Harley, a young woman who wants to live her dream, despite her parents’ disapproval.
The thing that stands out is the dynamics between the family and the ability of the reader to connect to both parties involved. Everyone wants to live their dreams; they want to give them a try if they have the courage and means to, and for Harley, that is all she wants, to attempt to live her dream. Her parents on the other hand, well, they are parents. They are not wrong to want to protect their Harley. They want to protect her from the pain of failure, but also to protect her future, to ensure she has the chance to have a career in case she fails at her dream. The problem is they do not see each other, and readers can connect to this. Readers empathize with Harley because she is trying to communicate with her parents on the importance of her dream but they are not listening, not really. However, Harley ignores their perspective, as well. Communication is critical here in this novel because they do not see each other. Nevertheless, the authors’ ability to allow the reader to connect to both sides of the story makes for an emotional read.
There is also this underlying tension regarding Harley’s mental health. It is evident through her expression and the way she explains her feelings to her new circus friends that she has some sort of bipolar disorder. She goes through the highs and lows and the constant references to an event in November showcase, once again, that her parents are not addressing the issue. It is a challenging issue to accurately represent because parents never want to feel like they have failed. However, ignoring what Harley is going through and passing it off as something less was not the right decision. So Harley’s decision to run away and join a rival circus makes sense when she feels as though she is not being seen, understood, or taken seriously. For her it is the beginning of a powerful and emotional journey that unravels throughout the story. It makes Harley relatable, and it makes her strength to stand up and keep her mind focused impactful. Harley flourishes and her dynamics with her parents flourish. She finds people who see her and regard her emotions with thought, with care, and to see Harley find that to go on this journey with her is emotional.
Harley in the Sky is a novel full of complex emotions and incredible writing. (★★★★★)