Written by Leigh Ansell
Published by Wattled Books, September 10, 2019
My star rating – 3.5 stars
Seventeen-year-old Corey Ryder can’t remember a time when she wasn’t gliding through the air of Cirque Mystique’s big top. As a trapeze artist in a traveling circus, Corey wakes up every day in a different place, buzzing for the moment she can suspend gravity during the night’s performance.
When the circus pulls into small-town Sherwood, California, everything seems normal—aside from meeting the exceptionally cute Luke Everett at a local diner. But that night, in the midst of the performance, tragedy strikes and flames overtake the tent. While Corey narrowly escapes, in the ashes of the circus pitch lies the only home she’s ever known.
Repeatedly thrown out of her comfort zone, Corey must learn how to push toward her future without forgetting her past, what it means to be a daughter to a mother she’s never known, and how to navigate the confusing magic of first love, even as she performs the high-wire act of being true to who you really are. Find it on Goodreads
I really struggled with the rating of this book. I went into it expecting something – a book about the circus, and the inner workings of a trapeze artist. I was desperate for the setting, the atmosphere, and the details of circus life. Yes, we get that in this book, but not nearly enough!!! This ended up being more of a teenage drama story – not that that’s a bad thing! But my expectations got in the way of my enjoyment of this book. In hindsight, by looking at the synopsis again, I shouldn’t have been surprised about that! Even still, I expected a circus story, and I was a little disappointed when the book took on a different direction. I still really liked this book – now let me explain why.
First of all, let me talk about the circus setting. The beginning of this book was flawless! We meet the main character Corey as she’s preparing to take the lead role in the trapeze act. I felt like I could feel her passion and desire for everything trapeze represented in her life. She was a glowing character. The setting though – perfection! The tents, the acts, the smells, the people – I wanted to be there! We had the drama that comes along with a group of people that are stuck in close quarters and working together in stressful and tiring situations. We got the inner workings of the family dynamic that happens with this travelling group of people. There was politics, and a seriously intriguing group of characters. There was just so much excitement!! Then tragedy struck, forcing Corey to go live with her mother that she doesn’t remember due to the fact that she had substance abuse issues. Here’s where I struggled a bit.
Like I said, I went into this expecting a story of a circus and then all of a sudden Corey is sent to live with her mother, go to school, and carry on life as a normal teenager. It’s not that this direction was a bad thing – I quite enjoyed the story. It just took me quite a while to stop comparing the book to what I thought it would be. Once I separated my expectations from reality, stepped back and started taking in the book for what it was, I was able to enjoy myself more. I did still wonder at the end of every chapter if THIS was the chapter that would bring us back to the circus….. spoiler – it doesn’t until the very end.
After tragedy strikes, Corey is sent to live with her mother that she doesn’t remember. She had been raised by her Aunt who worked for Mystique (the circus) and travelled with them ever since. Now that her mother has cleaned up, she is forced to rekindle their relationship. I was NOT invested in this relationship at all. I knew that the mother would be distant. She’s living with a lot of guilt knowing that she chose drugs over her child. Even though she’s clean now it would be impossible not to feel guilt and pain knowing that you didn’t raise your own daughter. The strained relationship was almost non existent. The mother was this clean and organized woman who didn’t know what to say or do with her daughter. And Corey wasn’t sure how to act either. Their relationship wasn’t really all that necessary to the plot of the story either. It would have ended up the same way had the relationship not been in there. I just felt like their relationship was a missed opportunity for further emotional connection.
I’m mentioning this later on in the review for a reason – trigger warnings in regards to parental abuse, both physical and mental. This was handled with care and was very well written actually. The parent is super controlling, lashes out, and causes physical injury as well as mental anguish. The author was able to portray the fear associated with the impending abuse. She also portrayed that the victim is often so used to the act of abuse that they will cover up for the abuser and take the blame. The victim will often get angry that their abuser is getting punishment and try to stick up for and make excuses. It was sad and heartbreaking all at once.
Corey as a main character was a little MEH for me. She was so strong and confident when she was in the circus then, all of a sudden, she’s this quiet and weak girl. I understand why the author did it though. Corey was intimidated with real teenage life. She grew up sort of sheltered as she lived and travelled with the same people in the circus. Then, all of a sudden, her life was flipped upside down and now she’s trying to navigate reality. On top of that change, she kept her identity of a trapeze artist a secret due to the fact that the entire town had low opinions. They thought circus performers were dirty, stupid thieves who were people you stayed away from. The last time the circus was in town, a distant development was vandalized and they blamed it on Mystique.
In the end, this really was an enjoyable read once I set aside my expectations. I was a little disappointed at first because it wasn’t what I hoped it would be BUT, once I finished reading it and reflected on the book for what it was, it was an enjoyable and well written story!
Thank you so much to Raincoast Books Canada and Wattpad Books for the chance to read this in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and are uninfluenced.
Until next time, happy reading!