Friday, April 5, 2013

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

Title: That Time I Joined the Circus
Author: J.J. Howard
Publisher: Scholastic
Age Group: Young Adult
Category: Contemporary
Release date: April 1st, 2013
Pages: 272 (ARC)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Source: Publisher
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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.

When Lexi's father unexpectedly passes away, she's forced to uproot from her New York City apartment in search of the mother that left their family years ago.  With no money and only the little bit of luggage she could manage to bring, she arrives at a circus.   Although her mother is long-gone, Lexi is offered a job there.   She never realized that somehow, she would grow fond of this unusual crowd and be able to fall in love with the lifestyle completely.

Lexi isn't a character that will become a part of you throughout the story.  She isn't someone who will stick with you after you've finished.  Truthfully, none of them are.  While I enjoyed reading about the lives of most of the characters, they seemed to be two dimensional.  Lexi is completely lost and alone, but although she's gone through so much over the span of a few short days, she handles everything surprisingly well.  I didn't see much emotion from her, and that's one thing that I didn't care for.  There were also three love interests in this book, and that didn't sit well with me.

It's very obvious that the author was going for a "no one is who they seem" theme.  Each of the characters turned out to be the exact opposite of what Lexi thought they would be, from her new friends at the circus to closer characters, such as her best friend and family members.  While the story was still entertaining and enjoyable, this pattern made many of the characters untrustworthy.  As for the circus theme, I found that it made the story more interesting.  Though it's more about the people than the performance, I loved being able to see what it's like to be on the inside, as a performer and grounds worker.  The only thing I wish was that there was more description.

That Time I Joined the Circus isn't something that will stay on your mind for days after turning the last page, but it was fun while it lasted.  Readers who want a cute, easy, and quick contemporary about love, hope, and growth should give this one a try.  With likable characters, a well-developed plot, and a few small surprises throughout the book, this story is worth the time it takes to read.  I would highly recommend it to younger teens not looking to get too involved.


  1. I can't wait to read this one, I love the idea of the circus and I am definitely in the mood for something cute and contemporary.

    Kristin @ Young Adult Book Haven

  2. I liked this one too-- but I agree. The characters probably won't be with me for very long. I did like the circus, though! Best part ever, LOL. Fabulous review, girly! (:

    Megan@The Book Babe

  3. I'm more into characters than any other part of a story, so even though this one has caught my eye in the past I don't think I'll pick it up. Thanks for the great review.

    Stopping by from Situation Saturday and new bloglovin' follower!

    Rie @ Mission to Read

  4. I think it is a fun story that I enjoyed very much, but I think it lacks a strong title and cover appeal. It won't stand out among all those books with better cover art. The title doesn't make me go, "ooh! I want to read that!"