Cover image for Harley, like a person
Harley, like a person
Bauer, Cat.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Delray Beach, FL : Winslow Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
248 pages ; 22 cm
Fourteen-year-old Harley, an artistic teenager living with her alcoholic father and angry mother, suspects that she is adopted and begins a search for her biological parents.
Reading Level:
500 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 3.7 9.0 41468.

Reading Counts RC High School 6.1 16 Quiz: 22917 Guided reading level: NR.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



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."

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Gr. 7^-10. "My house is a place of pain / A sea of shame / A hurtful chain." Harley Columba is miserable. Trapped in a home with a belligerent, distracted mother and an alcoholic father, she is convinced that she is adopted in spite of the family legend of her birth--in New York City on the anniversary of John Lennon's death. She longs for a real family, parents who listen to and appreciate her--like a real person. In fact, Bauer makes Harley a likable, gutsy, full-bodied character whose life revolves around school, friends, her art, and her obsession with finding her "real" father. The fact that Harley is actually adopted is a tantalizing plot element. As is turns out, Harley's finding her father is relatively easy, but reconciling his disappearance, her "parents" destructive relationship, and her place among the three adults is not. Harley's strength of character, her humor, and her vulnerability will resonate with teen readers--those who are adopted as well as those who occasionally wish they were. --Frances Bradburn

School Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



chapter1 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?" "Bean--" "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 All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.