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A Kansas NEA Reading Circle List High School Title

Featured title in Once Upon a Book Club’s March Subscription Box

One of The Nerd Daily’s “10 Must-Read YA Contemporaries of 2020“

Affinity Magazine’s “Novel of the Decade”

Recorded as an audiobook with Recorded Books

Starred review from Sound Commentary

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The Greatest Showman meets This Is Us by way of Sarah Dessen in this heart-wrenching, hopeful contemporary novel about a multiracial teen who risks it all to follow her dreams by joining the circus, from the critically acclaimed author of Starfish.

Cover illustrated by Sarah J. Coleman and designed by Heather Palisi-Reyes
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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 the rival traveling circus Maison du Mystère. 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 to 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.  

From award-winning author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes a luminous, unforgettable examination of love, loyalty, and the hard choices we must make to find where we truly belong. Publication is set for March 10th, 2020 with Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster.

content warnings
cw: mood swings, depression, references to suicidal ideation, heart attack


Recorded Books - Narrated by Ali Ahn


United Kingdom – Ink Road


“Bowman creates an emotionally driven novel brimming with exuberant details of circus life and aerial routines.” — Publishers Weekly

Those who go for earnest, poetic character studies will adore this trip to the Big Top.” — Booklist

“Mental health, family and friendship, and the circus: all told in a raw, engaging voice.” — Kirkus Reviews

"For listeners who like contemporary realistic fiction, with relatable characters set on fulfilling their dreams, this is a must-listen. It gets a 10/10, five stars, and a thumbs up from me." ★ Sound Commentary, starred review

“Akemi Dawn Bowman tells a powerful story of identity, found family, and carving a unique path in Harley In The Sky… A poignant, whimsical delight.” The Fandom

“This story is a 10/10 for me. It spoke to my soul in a way I wasn’t expecting, and I found myself relating to a character on a number of levels. I feel like it’s nostalgic atmosphere will also draw in readers that are looking for stories of personal growth and perseverance. Please add this to your TBR!”  —The Nerd Daily

“The novel of the decade.” — Affinity Magazine

“I cannot recommend Harley in the Sky enough! Akemi Dawn Bowman completely blew me away between her writing style, the setting, and all the elements she was able to uncover and truly develop along the way.”  — Fangirl Fury

“Akemi Dawn Bowman presents a circus spectacular for the 21st century where the main attraction is a young acrobat’s grace, spirit, and strength and the only beasts to be found are the emotions and fears that threaten her dreams from becoming reality. Harley Milano is a passionate, complicated character whose thrilling desire to swing free from her past and into an impossible unknown will alter the lives of everyone she loves. I enjoyed my time as a ringside spectator to this truly magical exhibition.” — Brein Lopez, Children’s Book World (Los Angeles, CA)

“Moulin Rouge!, The Greatest Showman, and now Harley in the Sky—a dazzling novel set amongst the magic that is the circus, and the found family that comes with it.” — Isabella Ogbolumani, Page 1 Books (Evanston, IL)

“You know that phrase ‘running away and joining the circus?’ That’s precisely what Harley does when her parents reject her dreams of becoming an aerialist for their circus business. In order to reach those dreams by herself, she sacrifices her familial loyalties in joining a rival company. Harley in the Sky is so much more than just that, though; it’s a quest for her personal identity, for coping with Bipolar disorder, and most of all, testing her endurance of every kind, physical and emotional. Bowman hits the contemporary YA bullseye with Harley, managing to cover all the hard-hitting, engaging, complicated, and overall relatable situations we encounter as we grow up and fly away. A truly inspirational novel.” — Andrew King, University Book Store (Seattle, WA)


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