Author: J.J. Howard
Publication Date: April 1, 2013
Source: from publisher via Netgalley
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
If the beautiful and unique cover weren't enough to pique my interest in this novel, that clever title surely was. Truth be told, in all my thirty years, I've never actually been to the circus. Even as a kid, I just never really had the desire to do so. It seems that Lexi, our main character, feels the same way. Except now she's got no other choice. She has to find her mom, and since her estranged mother was last known to be performing with a traveling circus, that's where Lexi is headed.
Lexi had been through quite the ordeal prior to her excursion via Greyhound bus to Florida. Everything that happened during the week or so leading up to her departure from New York is actually the reason for her trip, the reason she needs to find her mother. But as the reader, you don't know what all she's endured, at least not from the start. Lexi's story alternates between the past and the present, with each chapter heading informing you as to what time period she is in her life. Some of the story flashes back months prior to the "incident" to give the reader a better background on her relationships and her state of mind at the time. Other chapters reflect on how she's surviving after fleeing to the circus. Focusing on the story from the past and present angles really brought the novel full-circle and provided a more in-depth view into Lexi's world as opposed to just having her dredge up a couple memories.
Once Lexi arrives at the circus, she realizes her mother is no longer there and that she is well and truly alone. To survive on her own, Lexi performs a number of odd jobs for the ringmaster of the circus, who has reluctantly taken the poor kid under his wing. My first glimpse of Louie had me worried, with his gruffness and lack of sympathy, but like everyone else in the circus family, he grew on me. Everyone eventually warmed up to Lexi and she even made some new friends, friendships that seemed unattainable when she first showed up. For awhile there, it even seemed like she'd forgotten about her search completely.
And then someone from her past shows up to wreck everything. Lexi has got some seriously confusing and complicated relationships going on. She kisses no less than three boys in this book, which nearly results in her losing one of the new friends she's made at the circus and could cost Lexi the ex-best friend she thought she'd lost for good. Watching Lexi navigate all of her friendships and relationships took some compassion but it also ended up being a lot of fun once she moved passed the heartache.
What started out as a rather discouraging story ended up being really cute and hopeful. I reveled in the importance placed on music throughout the book, as it is a constant source of comfort for me, as well. This novel contains lessons about love and loss and everything in between, but it isn't preachy or emotionally-fraught by any means. It's just about a girl, triumphing over a rough patch in her life and trying to get back to normal. And the circus is just one brief stop along the path.