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Friday, April 26, 2013

Cute and Magical Circus An Enjoyable Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Lexi Ryan made a stupid mistake.  One that ended up killing her father.  As if the guilt and grief aren't enough to bring the 17-year-old to her knees, she's also got no money, no home, and nowhere she can turn for help.  Before she screwed everything up, Lexi could have run to her best friend, Eli Katz.  He would have done anything—anything—for her.  Not anymore.  Now, she's well and truly alone.  There's only one avenue for Lexi to follow:  she'll have to track down the mother who abandoned her only child in order to pursue a singing career.  Last anyone knew, Callie Ryan was working in Florida with a traveling circus.  It's a start.

At the end of a long Greyhound ride, Lexi finds Circus Europa.  But not her mother.  It's a dead end.  Lexi has nowhere else to go, so she hires on as a glorified pooper scooper.  While shoveling dung, she surprises herself by falling in love with the vibrant, ever-changing circus life.  And the people who keep it running, especially the tall, dark, handsome ones.  When Lexi lands the job of circus fortune teller, she finally feels like she's found her place.  Like she's home.  She still has no leads on her mother's whereabouts, but maybe finding Callie doesn't matter so much anymore.

Then, a surprise visitor shows up and throws Lexi's life into another tailspin.  Just as she was feeling comfortable with her new life among the lions, tigers and bears (oh my!), she has to ask herself the tough questions:  Where is her true home?  What does she want for her future?  And, most importantly, what does family really mean?  As she wrestles with the big questions, Lexi will find the one thing she's been looking for all along:  herself.

Ever since I glimpsed the cover of That Time I Joined the Circus by J.J. Howard somewhere in the book blogosphere, I've wanted to read this debut novel.  So, I was thrilled when a copy showed up on my doorstep, courtesy of the good people at Scholastic.  As soon as I opened the book, I knew my excitement was justified because really, everything about the book is appealing, from its design to its premise to the engaging voice of its heroine.  Sure, there are things about the story that bugged me—it's far-fetched, a bit contrived, not as atmospheric as I wanted it to be, the love triangle (square?) gets a little annoying, etc.  Overall, though I found this one cute and magical.  I enjoyed it.  

(Readalikes:  Reminded me a little of Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and a teensy, tiny bit of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern)

Grade:  B

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG-13 for mild language (no F-bombs) and mild sexual content/innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of That Time I Joined the Circus from the generous folks at Scholastic.  Thank you!   

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