Monday, April 01, 2013

Review: That Time I Joined the Circus by J.J. Howard

That Time I Joined the Circus
 J.J. Howard
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication date: April 1st 2013
by Point

Lexi Ryan just ran away to join the circus, but not on purpose.

A music-obsessed, slightly snarky New York City girl, Lexi is on her own. After making a huge mistake--and facing a terrible tragedy--Lexi has no choice but to track down her long-absent mother. Rumor has it that Lexi's mom is somewhere in Florida with a traveling circus.

When Lexi arrives at her new, three-ring reality, her mom isn't there . . . but her destiny might be. Surrounded by tigers, elephants, and trapeze artists, Lexi finds some surprising friends and an even more surprising chance at true love. She even lucks into a spot as the circus's fortune teller, reading tarot cards and making predictions.

But then Lexi's ex-best friend from home shows up, and suddenly it's Lexi's own future that's thrown into question.

With humor, wisdom, and a dazzlingly fresh voice, this debut reminds us of the magic of circus tents, city lights, first kisses, and the importance of an excellent playlist.
-A copy was provided by Scholastic Canada for review-

A sweet and enchanting read, this novel brings us to a circus where New York City girl, Lexi, figures out who she is, and where she wants to go in life.

Having been a big fan of Water for Elephants, I've since had a liking for books revolving around the circus, so That Time I Joined the Circus had me instantly intrigued by its title alone. Although it is much different from Water for Elephants; where that book is dark and dangerous, this one is light and cute, I found a similar kind of adoration for it nonetheless. Moreover, the magic of the circus, while less vibrant than the intensely atmospheric Water for Elephants, is present through a different light in this friendship-filled modern day traveling circus venture.

Lexi has always been kind of a loner. She has a couple of very close friends with whom she's had a falling out with, thus finding herself alone when her father dies. Her situation is undoubtedly sad and very easy to relate to. Even if you're far from ever having been in such a situation, she has that kind of loneliness that I'm sure we all experienced once or twice during our teens. When she gets hired in the circus, she has to adapt to foreign place and situations that she never thought she'd find herself in and we really see some big character growth happening in the story. She's a determined and strong soul that I easily found myself rooting for through and through. In a situation where a lot of people would have broken down, she did what had to be done
; I commend her for it! 

Being set in the circus means many things, but the best of them is the colourful set of secondary characters that get to be a part of this story. Even though this cast is kept relatively small in comparison to similar settings, with only 5-6 of them, they come with fun quirks and sweet moments, developing a wonderful group dynamic. I especially enjoyed Louie's daughters; these two girls whom at first came off as cold surprised me by becoming very endearing to Lexi. Their friendship blooms throughout, giving us a lot of lighthearted moments that you usually only see from the most seasoned of friendships. There are boys walking in the midst as well. The romance is done very differently in this novel. There is no love triangle, but Lexi does make a few mistakes and life experiences before finding out who she truly wants to be with. I thought this was a realistic portrait of most teenage relationships. It's at a time in your life where you don't really know what kind of guy you're looking for. The romance itself, though, never becomes the main focus of the plot; it's simply another sliver of Lexi's self-discovery--which is, in the end, what this novel is truly about.

Friendship and family play the biggest parts in this story, with a setting that brings about a unique and exotic atmosphere filled with lights, magic, and music, and a young girl who truly finds herself, in the middle of it all.

4 Hot Espressos