Part-Romanian, “dark as a gypsy” Willow Stephens has been raised by nannies and posh boarding schools.
Willow has everything except what she really wants: her millionaire father’s attention. Wanting to feel connected to her estranged, circus-performer mother, Willow decides she, too, will join the circus. With her gap-year savings buried deep in the lining of her bag, 17-year-old Willow reinvents herself as Frog, circus performer. When she befriends homeless street performer Suz, a “tanned skinned, yellow-dreadlocked” Australian, Willow trusts the wrong person and ends up penniless. When the young women meet again, Willow is understandably untrusting. But Suz takes Willow into her squat, feeds her, and teaches her how to juggle—and eat—fire. When the circus comes to town, Willow auditions and goes on the road, leaving lost soul Suz behind. The story never romanticizes homelessness; it’s represented as the harsh reality it is. Women in their infinite variety are celebrated: Willow sees her “thick” wrists and ankles as an asset; she recalls the golden hairs on her mother’s face as beautiful; and one of the circus members is a charismatic trans woman named Delilah. Poetically fluid descriptions of Willow’s emotions and her surroundings bolster the sometimes-uneven first-person narrative.
A beautiful and unforgettable story about a girl who learns she must lose who she thought she was before she can become who she’s meant to be. (Fiction. 13-18)