Thursday 20 April 2017

The Circus - Olivia Levez

Why would a girl who has everything want to run away and never be found?

Willow has staged runaways ever since she was a little girl. She has everything a young person should want: a rich daddy, clothes, money, a pony and a place at a prestigious boarding school. In reality, she has everything except the thing she really wants: a father who cares enough to find her.

Aged sixteen, on the eve of her father’s wedding, she ruins the bride’s dress and escapes through a window, determined never to return. Her missing mother was a circus performer, and Willow wants to follow in her footsteps. But the performers she meets don’t want her. When her last bit of money is stolen by Suze, another runaway girl she thought she could trust, Willow becomes really homeless. Then Suze comes tumbling back into her life and a desperate Willow has to decide whether to trust her all over again . . .

So begins their frightening, exhilarating odyssey though hunger, performance, desperation and dreams. Will they both survive and will Willow make it to the circus of her imagining?

Olivia Levez takes you into the very heart of a girl who wants so hard to be lost, but saves herself through a powerful friendship and the awakening of a need for home.

What did I think?

Although I don't read a lot of YA novels, I was introduced to Olivia Levez when I read her remarkable debut novel, The Island.  So when faced with the question: 'There's a new Olivia Levez book out - do you want to read it?'  The answer, without hesitation, was 'Yes please!'

The Circus introduces us to Willow Stephens as she snips the buttons off a wedding dress, on the day that 'The Handbag' is due to marry Willow's Dad.  Willow doesn't hang around for the fallout, she already has her bag packed and plans to follow in her mother's footsteps by running away to join the circus.  Willow can't remember her mum, all she has is a dog-eared photograph of her with a snake around her neck and part of a word '...stings'.  With fate lending a hand, Willow completes the word and heads to the place where she feels that she is finally getting closer to her mother, and to a place where she belongs.

Willow meets Suz, a street performer, when Suz steals all of Willow's money.  Willow walks the streets looking for Suz but when she finally finds her, her money is gone, leaving Willow penniless and homeless.  Despite this, the unlikely pair forge a strong friendship as they struggle to find food and shelter in order to stay alive.  Willow is fearful of being recognised as her face is all over the news, and her Dad is offering a hefty reward, so she alters her appearance as much as she can and calls herself 'Frog'.  Then one day Willow meets some real circus performers who ask her to join them, but they don't have any room for Suz.  Willow is faced with making a tough decision that ultimately has devastating consequences, but one which forces Willow to finally see how much she is loved.

Olivia Levez has not only raised the bar with The Circus, but has swung from it in a glittering gold costume; whereas The Island was unusual with some chapters containing only one powerful word, The Circus really stands out as the star attraction.  It was heartbreaking as Willow searched for somewhere to belong and we learned more of her past - she has run away several times before, trying to get her Dad to notice her.  She had everything she could ever want in her privileged life, everything except the only thing she wanted - her Dad's attention.

The Circus is a wonderful story of family, belonging and unlikely friendships that had me captivated from the tempestuous start to the emotive and uplifting finale.  I felt like I was on Willow's journey with her and I was surprised to find how emotionally invested in the story I was.  A powerful, uplifting story that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone who has ever felt lost and ached to be found.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

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