That Time I Joined the Circus
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.
This book is interesting in its execution of telling both critical parts of Lexi's back story and what led her to the circus as well as tying her into what she is doing in present time. In the beginning, I was confused with the jumping around (one chapter the past, the next chapter the present, etc), but I overcame that problem rather quickly. I am still a little foggy, however, on what exactly transpired besides the tragedy, that was so devastating for Lexi. But I made my assumptions and I am sticking with them!
While this book did take place, for the most part, within the confines of a small circus, it did not transport me into this alternative world that circus life is supposed to be. There is a reason for that though. This book is not meant to be something of an insider's look into living with the circus. If it were, it would not be a young adult book. It is a book that focuses on Lexi and all the hardships she must overcome in her life to get where she wants to be in her life.
Lexi is one of those characters that you can't help but like. She is introverted, quiet, and an artist in every sense of the word. However, she is also human. She feels pain, lust, love, and on rare ocasions, happiness, just like everyone else. I loved how some of Lexi's personalities traits helped her through her life in the circus. Normally, I take issue with female leads who are overly emotional and constantly throwing themselves into men's arms for comfort, but I didn't have those issues with Lexi. She was hurting in an almost palpable way and I, myself, wanted to just grab her and hug her until she didn't hurt anymore. She's a teenager forced to grow up way too soon, which is always a tragedy in my opinion.
What I didn't care for was so many love interests. Lexi was wounded and took comfort where she could find it. Did she need to have so many guys she was interested in though, even if it were just a late night makeout session to settle her nerves? One, perfectly acceptable. Two, ah, the traditional love triangle, also plausible. Three, now you're just getting silly with things.
The Time I Joined the Circus was masterfully written in flashbacks and reality. It integrated, essentially, two story lines into one and made me feel like I was getting to know the characters by watching how their past dictates their present. Howard's debut novel could possibly be termed the "greatest little [book] on earth".
Review Posted on: http://www.ladybugliterature.blogspot.com
Lexi (or Xandra, or X, depending on who you ask) has lost everyone in her life. She also hates her mom. Like, really hates her. But she needs to find her and heard she was working the Europa circus, so Lexi gets on a bus hoping to find her mom. And that’s going to take a little longer than she thinks. She makes some new friends and kisses a few boys before her ex-BFF shows up and turns that all upside down.
I really liked that Lexi had to make the all of the decisions regarding her life and her future herself, and that she made them for herself and not for any of the boys she was smooching. I also really disliked three things, and they impacted my rating:
The R word. In the first chapter. I contemplated not reading any further, and if I hadn’t received the book to review I probably wouldn’t have finished it (I’m glad I did finish it, but I really hope that got edited out).
Gypsy gets used A LOT. It’s actually a racist term. This is something that I only learned in the last year or so, and I don’t think it’s commonly known/thought of as being racist, and yet it is. Romani is also used as a description, so I’m not sure why that couldn’t be used every time? I hope these get edited out as well.
Not specific to this book, but almost every time a character is supposed to be a music snob or be really into music...they like terrible music. In this case, some of it is okay, but the horribleness shines through. I just couldn’t make sense of it – Lexi’s dad was a super cool DJ and her mom is a performer, yet she listens to some really crappy stuff and talks about it like we’re supposed to be impressed? I don’t get it.
That Time I Joined the Circus is a great choice if you think more books should take place at the circus.
Lexi is a self-proclaimed music sob. She’s one of those people who thinks listening to anything in the Top 40 is beneath them. I was worried I was going to hate her, since I generally cannot stand people like this, but I actually warmed up to her pretty quickly. Besides knowing everything about obscure music, Lexi is also a bookworm, good with kids, and can read tarot cards. Of course her many talents come in handy when she’s trying to earn her keep at the circus. I did have a couple of eye rolling moments, because it was quite convenient how each of these things came into play in various circus jobs.
That Time I Joined the Circus alternates between present and past. The present, of course, is Lexi at the circus searching for her mother. The past is the preceding months, and they aren’t as interesting. They don’t disrupt the flow of the story, at least for me, because they show us more of who Lexi is and the life she’s leaving behind. I did wish that there were less of these chapters, since the book is quite short and I wanted to see more of the circus life.
However, these flashback chapters make more sense at about the two-thirds mark. This is also where the story takes an unexpected turn. It seems like the ending focuses more on Lexi and her best friend, Eli, making amends after the events of the day of her father’s death. There really is hardly any focus on her mother. In fact, once Lexi arrives at Circus Europa, there are no more mentions of her mom until she finds her at the end. Even then the focus still seems to be on her and Eli.
Let’s talk about the romance briefly. Of course there is a romance. A really strange love triangle, at that. I was nervous that it was going to be a love rhombus, but one of the candidates is removed almost immediately. It still comes down to Nick and Eli though. I already mentioned that Eli is the best friend with which some drama occurred, but Nick is the super hot circus boy. It’s basically instalove, and I didn’t buy it. They had known each other for only a few weeks, so yeah. Not a fan of the romance in this one.
In the end, That Time I Joined the Circus was a delight to read despite my complaints. It’s definitely a unique story and loads of fun. There’s some serious parts as Lexi is missing her father and learns the truth about why her mom left. But overall it’s a pretty fluffy read with a great cast, and the cheesy ending left a smile on my face.