Author: J.J. Howard
Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
Lexi Ryan just ran away to join the circus, but not on purpose.
A music-obsessed, slightly snarky New York 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 fortune that's thrown into question.
With humor, wisdom, and a dazzling fresh voice, this debut reminds us of the magic of circus tents, city lights, first kisses, and the importance of an excellent playlist.
Ever since I read the book Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, I have been absolutely obsessed with books about the circus. You can imagine my excitement when I discovered this little gem. And I do mean little with it's 259 pages. I think everyone has a soft spot in their hearts when it comes to the circus. Whether it be childhood memories or just the wonder of the lights, sounds, smells, and tastes (good God I want some cotton candy right now!) that surround the imagery that is the circus.
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".