The Circus

Sixteen-year-old Willow Stephens has everything a young girl could want: money, friends, a prestigious education, even a horse. However, none of it makes up for a lack of affection from her father or for the absence of her mother.

Willow, who's been running away since she was nine, knows the stakes are higher now. Her father is about to marry his much-younger girlfriend--the woman Willow refers to as "The Handbag"--and if that isn't bad enough, The Handbag is pregnant. Willow is certain she'll be relegated to second-class citizen in the family with a new baby.

On the day of the wedding, Willow snips all the buttons off The Handbag's gown and escapes out a window. She's intent on following in her mysterious mother's footsteps by making a name for herself in the circus. Along her journey, Willow befriends a homeless street performer named Suz who agrees to train Willow so she can audition. More importantly than learning to walk a high wire and eat fire, though, Willow learns who she really is.

Much like the circus performances her protagonist longs to join, Olivia Levez's (The Island) tale of life, love and family is thrilling and brilliantly alluring. Willow describes the circus by saying, "Some giant has dipped a brush in watercolour and splashed in the yellow amongst all the gray. A little patch of magic." Her words can just as easily describe this enchanting sophomore novel. With equal parts coming of age, adventure and love story, under the big top of Levez's Circus, readers will find grace and wonder. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

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