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HARLEY IN THE SKY

Mental health, family and friendship, and the circus: all told in a raw, engaging voice.

When her parents insist on college, Harley runs away from home to join a circus.

Harley Milano grew up in her parents’ circus, watching rehearsals and performances and seeing all the work her parents put into managing and creating new acts. And she’s put in time herself, practicing as much as she can on the trapeze. She wants to perform, and she’s ready to be an apprentice, but her parents refuse to entertain her plans. Angry and heartbroken, Harley takes a chance opportunity to join a rival circus, betraying her family in the process. But she believes her dream is worth it, no matter how worried her best friend or her parents might be. Harley throws herself into proving her aerial talents, forging tenuous new friendships and grappling with her constantly shifting, intense emotions. Bowman (Summer Bird Blue, 2018, etc.) explores the costs and rewards of pursuing a dream while also incorporating discussion of mental health and its effects on relationships through generations. Harley is biracial, her mother being Chinese and Irish and her father Japanese and Italian, and she frequently reflects on the influence her mixed heritage has had on her identity. As Harley is torn between familial expectations and her own aspirations, this novel will appeal to those searching for their own places in the world.

Mental health, family and friendship, and the circus: all told in a raw, engaging voice. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3712-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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