Harley, Like a Person

Harley, Like a Person

4.8 28
by Cat Bauer

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Fourteen-year-old Harley Columba is convinced she's adopted. She's nothing like her abusive, alcoholic father or her bitter, romance novel-reading mother. They have brown eyes, but Harley's eyes are blue. They argue and drink and thrive in dreary suburbia while Harley paints, writes poetry, and longs for a different family and a better life. But then she finds…  See more details below


Fourteen-year-old Harley Columba is convinced she's adopted. She's nothing like her abusive, alcoholic father or her bitter, romance novel-reading mother. They have brown eyes, but Harley's eyes are blue. They argue and drink and thrive in dreary suburbia while Harley paints, writes poetry, and longs for a different family and a better life. But then she finds a new, startling piece of evidence: a harlequin doll that's been hidden away for years, with a note around its neck: "Papa loves you forever and a day." Now Harley has genuine hope--hope that she can escape the chaos of the Columba household. Hope that she can find her real father.

Tough, funny, and refreshingly honest, Harley, Like a Person is a compelling story of family, the power of creativity, and the enduring strength of self.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

In a neverfaltering voice, fourteenyearold Harley Columba relates the events of her freshman year, including family secrets and the realities of being an artistic girl in a dysfunctional suburban family. Her father drinks and gets abusive, and her mother yells. Harley and her younger brother and sister endure in silence. Unanswered questions lead Harley to believe that she is adopted. Harley's changing reactions lead to a loss of old friends, new boyfriends, lies and deceptions, and grass and alcohol. The results are failing grades and constant grounding. Her artistic ability is recognized, however, and she is given an opportunity to paint sets for the school play. From teachers and friends, she learns things about her parents and discovers evidence that supports her adoption theory. Through growing defiance of her parents and anger at school, she is removed from her cherished art project. Finally compelled to leave her home in the suburbs, Harley goes to the city to meet the man she believes is her father. What begins with rejection results in confirmationbut with some twists. Understanding the truth and confronting her parents allows them all to begin to find some reconciliation and a new perspective on their family life. This novel is a solid and enticing read for teens. Although the outcomes are not uneXpected, they do not necessarily follow any formulas. Harley's voice is true to the eXperience of many young people. Note that the book was released simultaneously in paperback with a very catchy cover. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12).2000, Winslow, 248p, $16.95, $6.95 Trade pb. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Patricia Morrow

SOURCE: VOYA, October 2000 (Vol. 23, No. 4) <%ISBN%> 1890817481

Bauer wrote this to complete the short story "Run Away" in Sassy magazine, after so many letters came from readers asking what happened to the main character. First, let me say that the cover is intriguing but hard to describe: suffice it to say, it will attract YA readers—accentuating Harley's eyes, her blue eyes, which tip her off that she may not be the biological child of her brown-eyed parents. Harley is a freshman in high school, from a home where there is explosive anger and a great deal of fear and loathing. She has been a "good girl" making straight A's and trying to obey her demanding parents. This novel chronicles her slide downhill: failing in school, fighting with her best friend, falling in love with an older drug dealer, lying, screaming, drinking, and finally running away from home. Much of this drama is like a soap opera, filled with hysteria and other scenes of passion. (This may not appeal to adult readers, but it will be fascinating to YAs, especially since Harley is such an attractive, essentially likable protagonist.) Much of her downfall centers on her obsession that her parents have been lying to her; she wants to know the truth about her birth and whether she was adopted. Her persistence does pay off and finally she uncovers these secrets and confronts her biological father. With the truth, at the end, comes the promise of healing and redemption. The depths of Harley's destructive behavior are the scenes in which she is hanging out with her new boyfriend, the one who gets arrested finally for dealing drugs. She drinks, smokes pot, experiments with sex (not described in detail), lies to her parents, and generally is just lucky that the repercussionsof these irresponsible behaviors aren't worse. What saves Harley is her intelligence, her imagination and creative abilities, which Bauer describes best. Harley is a gifted artist, who escapes into images when things get really bad. Because of the marvelously authentic-sounding first-person narrative, readers will love Harley and admire her gritty search for answers, worry over her wild behavior, and be happy at the resolution of this story. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2000, Winslow, 248p, 99-046814, $16.95. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; July 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 4)
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-At 14, Harley is possessed by the idea that her verbally abusive father can't possibly be her natural parent. Growing up in a working-class New Jersey neighborhood, she has known the same people all her life, but only recently has she discovered a harlequin doll, addressed to her on her second birthday, with a note from "Papa." The handwriting isn't her dad's and that gives Harley enough reason to look for factual evidence to support her feeling of having been adopted. Told in Harley's voice, the story veers between self-centered capriciousness and bravery. The details are realistic, and Harley's search for her birth father is flawed but credible in method. Minor characters have disappointingly flat walk-on roles. Harley's siblings are barely more than names; the grandmother on whom she dotes dies offstage within pages of being introduced; the disciplinarian at Harley's school does a mean Jekyll-and-Hyde imitation without explanation; even Harley's birth father is dismissed almost as soon as she discovers his identity. This isn't a novel with literary flair but it is a well-felt story with real appeal to Harley's peers. The facts of her life, and her emotional health, are complex. Young teens seeking stories about troubled homes and strong girls who persevere in the face of unimpressive adults will not be disappointed.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
paper: 1-890817-49-X Living in a thoroughly dysfunctional family, with an alcoholic father and an enabling mother, Harley Columba feels and hopes that she is adopted. Researching her birth certificate, she finds discrepancies that start her on a path to finding her birth father. An old yearbook, a toy clown, and a handwritten note in the attic point to a high school beau of her mother's, Sean Shanahan. Harley's search for some sort of relief from her abusive father and her helpless mother lead her through some experimenting with the wild kids in school, getting her deeper in trouble at home. Finally, she lights out for New York City, confronts Sean, and hears the unvarnished truth. Still as irresponsible as ever, Sean admits that he has sired two children out of wedlock: Harley and her best friend, Carla. The sub-plot, which hints at Harley's artistic abilities, is nearly drowned out by the senseless comments and violence of her abusive stepfather, which caused her to seek refuge, starting from the first page. But it is clear that her art comes from the father who left her behind. Returning home, Harley and her parents make a small step toward peace. But this ending seems tacked on and the stepfather's shift in attitude hard to believe. It is only the author's facility with words that saves this from becoming soap opera of the first order and it might have succeeded better had the narration not been in the first person. An okay first novel, with a promise of better to come. (Fiction. YA)

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Product Details

Cavendish, Marshall Corporation
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 7.50(h) x (d)
Age Range:
12 - 15 Years

Read an Excerpt

Harley, Like a Person

By Cat Bauer

Knopf Books for Young Readers

Copyright © 2007 Cat Bauer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780375937354


I'm under the bed. They don't know it. They think I've run away again. And I have. Only this time I'm under the bed.

I can see their shoes as they walk around my room. There are my mother's small fat feet squished into a pair of blue Kmart specials. My father's cowboy boots stampede across the linoleum floor. In the corner, my tiny sister, Lily, flutters her pink ballet slippers against the metal bed frame. She whispers, "Row, row, row your boat," over and over.

My mother's sneakers zigzag as she paces. "Where does she go? That kid will give me a heart attack!" My father doesn't answer. My father doesn't talk when he's mad. He roars.

My mother shakes my little sister. I crane my neck, straining to see. She grabs Lily's face. She squeezes her cheeks. She is angry at my father, but Lily gets it. Whoever is in the room gets their anger; this is why I'm under the bed. I want to yank my mother's hands away, make her stop. "Where is she?" Her words are hot and Lily gets burned. "Where is Harley?"

My sister knows what's coming. So do I. She starts to tremble. "I . . . I don't know." She speaks the truth. She doesn't know. I feel bad that Lily is being tortured because of me. But although she is only five years old, she is a strong prisoner and does not break.

"Let me handle this, Peppy." My father speaks softly. Not a good sign. Lily is caught in the cross fire;the battle is between the two of them. My father rumbles over to Lily. He removes his belt. It has a big silver buckle in the shape of Texas, even though we live in New Jersey. He never hits people with the belt, only furniture; it is a leather threat. He is a lion tamer and Lily is a kitten. "I'll whip you, girl, if you keep lying like that. I'll give you something to lie about."

Lily wilts. She starts crying. "I'm not lying! I don't know! I don't know where Harley is!" I want to pop out from under the bed and rescue her. Like Superman. Unhand that child!

A pair of black Nikes bounce into the room. My brother, Bean. I hear the tap, tap, tap of Riley's paws right behind him. Riley is a good hunting dog; I hope he doesn't sniff me out.

An apple crunches. "Whatcha doin'?" Bean eats apples.

"Get out and mind your own business, Bean." My father pulls in the reins when he talks to my brother.

"You gonna beat the crap outta her? Can I watch?"


"Come on, Dad. Let's have some action. You go on and on about beating the little runt, but you never do." Bean loves Lily, too.

I think about calling out to Bean. A daring res- cue. We transform ourselves into shining knights and capture the drunken dragon and his fire-breathing wife. We lock them in the dungeon in the basement and rule the house with peace and kindness. But although Bean is tall, he is not strong.

"Bean. Get out. Now." My father puts on his Commander voice.

It works. Bean's black Nikes hesitate, then shuffle out the door. "I'm goin' over to Earl's."

I hear the drawer of my night table open. I turn my head quickly, silently, to the left. My mother stands right next to me. Those sneaky rubber soles have steered her over to my secret drawer. My safe place. My treasures. I try to breathe without making a sound. I could grab her leg and really give her a heart attack, I think. A monster from under the bed. I start to giggle. I force my mind to think of something else.

My mother is rooting through my drawer. She makes noises like a curious raccoon. My heart pounds. I know what she will find. "Roger, look at this!" My father's boots turn away from Lily. I can see the tip of the belt dangling at his side. I peek up at my little sister. She is crying softly. I want to pull her under the bed with me and keep her safe.

"That kid is grounded for six months!" My mother's voice is nails on a blackboard.

"Calm down, Peppy. What's the matter?" Clomp. Clomp. Clomp. The cowboy boots join the Kmart specials.

"Look at these!" I know what she has in her hand. I keep my birth control pills hidden in my night table drawer under a pile of my drawings and my poems. My pills, unopened and waiting. I always thought they were safe there. My pills and my poems.

"Listen to this." Papers rustle. My mother reads out loud. " 'My House,' by Harley Columba. 'My house is a place of pain/ A sea of shame/ A hurtful chain/ My house is awash in gloom/ A desperate room/ A dying bloom. . . .' " I hear a ripping sound. Pieces of white notebook paper sigh on their way to the floor. My poem. I blink away my tears.

"Where did she get them? Where does a fourteen-year-old girl get birth control pills?" My father seems bewildered.

"Well, you're no help--"

"Damn it, don't start! Don't start in on me!" The lion tamer curls the belt in his hand.

My mother won't stop. My mother never stops; she has no brakes. She is a man-eating beast that refuses to jump through the fiery hoop. "What are you going to do? Oh, ho, ho. Just try it." I hear a scuffling sound and a shout. My easel in the corner crashes to the floor. I watch my oil painting of Strawberry Fields skid along the linoleum and stop inches away from my fingers. I want to cry.

I close my eyes and soar up to the quiet, peaceful place. Up, up, up I go. Their voices grow dim and hazy. The three-ring circus begins, but I can barely hear it. It's safe up here, all flowers and rainbows. I stand in the middle of my painting of Strawberry Fields. In my mind, I paint a crystal-blue pond in the center of the meadow. Far away, I hear the crack of the belt as it cuts through the air and strikes the bedpost. I dip my paintbrush into a jar of yellow and sprinkle the meadow with sunshine. The man-eating beast growls; the lion tamer laughs. The pond. Into the pond. I try to dive into the smooth blue water, but it is canvas, not water, and I am falling. . . .

From the Trade Paperback edition.


Excerpted from Harley, Like a Person by Cat Bauer Copyright © 2007 by Cat Bauer. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Bauer grew up in New Jersey and has also lived in New York City and Hollywood. She now lives in Venice, Italy.

From the Hardcover edition.

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