Friday, March 22, 2013

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Title: That Time I Joined the Circus
Author: J.J. Howard
Series: stand-alone
Publisher: Point
Publication Date: April 1, 2013
Source: from publisher via Netgalley
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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.

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.

Rating:   photo 4-1.png


  1. I'm glad you said that about never going to the circus. Not such a circus person myself. I did go once, but …. eh. Not my thing.

    I do like the idea of a mystery event that we get clues about -- I liked this structure in Everneath. I'm off to request this from the library!

    1. It definitely had that same vibe...finding out little bits and pieces as the story progressed.

  2. Great review! I'm actually not sure if I've ever been to the circus either LOL! Maybe I went when I was super little, but now that I think of it, I have no memory of it.

    This book was totally cute and I'm glad you enjoyed it too. :)

    1. Yeah, going to the circus has never been high on my list of priorities. :) Glad you liked the book, too!

  3. I have been to the circus a few times as a kid but not for a long time. I guess they just don't come around much anymore. I am very curious about this one, it sounds different and unique and what is drawing me to it is the stand alone part. I want to just flip through a few good stand alones. I like the music aspect as well!

    1. I'm really digging the stand-alones right now, too, Heidi. I'm already in the middle of so many series...I don't need any new ones! :P

  4. I actually like the circus, but I haven't been in a long time. It used to stop right next to my school and we'd always sneek out during break to pet the zebras ^^'
    I'm glad you enjoyed this one, Jen! It stuck out to me because of the cover and the setting, and I like that Lexi's past is gradually revealed and that it's such an emotional (and adventurous?) read :) I'm very curious about the jobs Lexi has to do now though, and about the various friendships and relationships you mentioned!

    1. Oh, that does sound fun. I like the animals...I'm just not big on the performances, I guess. I'm more interested in the carnival stuff, and the circuses around here don't always have rides and booths.

      Yep, full of emotion AND adventure. :) I hope you like this one, Carmen!

  5. Bookmarking this review to come back and read later, since I'm in the middle of reading the book now! I definitely want to see what you thought of it too. :)

  6. I love this review, Jen--it sounds as though you really get to see the character's emotional growth. I may have to check this one out now, I've been seeing some great reviews.

    But you've never been to the circus! Get thee a cone of cotton candy, lady. You have to go at least once. :)

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    1. Haha...more into carnivals or fairs than the circus. If you've seen one elephant, you've seen 'em all, right? :)


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