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Leigh Ansell’s “Trapeze” Swings Into Hearts: A Review

Leigh Ansell’s Trapeze is set to release on September 10, 2019, and this book is one to be excited about. It is centered on a teenage trapeze artist who has to adjust to life outside of the circus, but it is also more than that; Ansell says that “beneath the glamorous setting, [she] wanted the story to have a deeper and more serious undertone, touching on the themes of family, friendship, first love, and staying true to who you really are”.

One thing to note about this novel’s release is that it originated on the popular writing platform Wattpad. Given the success of its clientele, with some books being turned into theatrical releases and Netflix films, it was only logical that Wattpad began investing in its writers themselves; in January, the company announced the launch of their own publishing division, Wattpad Books. Trapeze is one of six releases in 2019, and the fact that Wattpad selected it as one of the “Original Six” is a testament to Ansell’s success on the platform. The original version of Trapeze received more than 2.5 million reads, and Ansell says she still gets hundreds of notifications from people reading and re-reading the story. She has acquired over 130 thousand followers and thirty million views across all her works, as well as won two Watty Awards and the Wattpad Prize for Best Love Story. Of her time on the platform, Ansell said, “Wattpad became a place where I could share my work without any pressure and work on getting better. Since then, my development as a writer and Wattpad’s development as a platform have kind of happened in parallel. The opportunities it can offer its writers now are incredible – and something I never could have imagined when I was fifteen.”

17-year-old Corey Ryder is a trapeze artist in the traveling Mystique circus, a role that she has been training for since she was a child. The circus arrives in small-town Sherwood, California one day, and Corey knows that the night is going to be a memorable one – and it is, but for all the wrong reasons. A fire breaks out in the tent during Corey’s trapeze routine, putting numerous lives at risk and ultimately halting Mystique’s operations while the cause of the fire is investigated. As Ansell says, Corey is forced to stand still for the first time in her life.

While Corey was in the circus, her aunt Shelby was her primary caretaker, as her mother, Hazel, was unfit to care for her. However, in the aftermath of the Mystique fire, Shelby informs Corey that she is going to live with her mother indefinitely. The way Corey and Hazel navigate their relationship is a major subplot in the novel, as the two could not be any more different. However, romance takes center stage (center of the ring?) in Trapeze.

Early on, Corey befriends the popular, friendly Luke Everett and begins to build a relationship with him. Over the course of their relationship, she begins to uncover the truth about his mysterious background, as well as what happened to Mystique. Although she tries to evade him immediately after the incident, Luke is quickly established as a source of stability for Corey. They have a generally healthy relationship, which is great to see in young adult fiction, and the only argument between them occurs due to a (plot-relevant) external conflict. However, the most intriguing part of their relationship are the parallels. There are notable parallels between the two in regards to their family lives, beginning with the lack of family photos in the Ryder household compared to the numerous photos in the Everett household. Most importantly, I noticed how Corey seems to uproot her mother’s life no matter what stage it is in and how Luke fears doing the same to his parents. Family matters to both characters, and not only does this detail make the connection feel more organic, but it becomes a catalyst – Corey and Luke’s relationship both impacts their families and ultimately drives the climax of the novel.

Ansell does a brilliant job showing exactly how Corey is impacted by her stay in Sherwood. The unnatural cleanliness of her mother’s home, the hostility of the students at Franklin High, and the overall juxtaposition of her old life in Mystique with her new life in Sherwood shows just how unstable Corey’s “mundane” life is. One would expect Corey to be amazing at everything, given her talents, but she isn’t – she struggles in school and generally feels out of place, which makes her feel more real and worth rooting for. Ansell stated that “an important part of [Corey’s] story is learning that the people around her can be hiding just as much of themselves, for fear of what others might say”, something that is evident even with supporting characters, and this element to Corey’s growth is one that many readers can relate to. Eventually, Corey does get her happy ending and is able to return to Mystique, but of course, she has to split up with Luke, an ending that Ansell said took a lot of consideration.

“There’s a delicate balance to strike between satisfying the readers – who are very emotionally invested in the characters they’ve been reading about for the last twenty-five chapters – and tying things up in a way that feels realistic,” she stated. And it does feel realistic – although the two are separated, they continue to keep in touch until they can meet again.

While I am glad that the main couple themselves did not have a perfect ending, a lot of the other loose ends did feel like they were tied up too neatly. It would have been nice to see more of the relationship between Corey and her mother before they inevitably reconciled, and I would have loved to see more of the supporting characters as well. Additionally, the situation with Corey’s secret getting out at school could have been handled differently; Kim mentioned that Corey was all over the Internet, and I feel that this would have been a more interesting route to take, rather than having one character spill the beans for the reasons that they did. Otherwise, this was a really enjoyable read, and I look forward to reading more of Ansell’s works in the future.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I received an advanced reader copy of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book cover and author’s comments were provided by Smith Publicity.

Trapeze will be released by Wattpad Books on September 10, 2019. You can pre-order it now via Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Indigo.

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Nadia is a writer from North Carolina who aims to foster open discussion through writing. She is primarily interested in health, society, science, and the arts.

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