Saturday, March 1, 2014

|ARC REVIEW| That Time I Joined The Circus by J. J. Howard

Review by: Kaede
Release Date: April 1st, 2013
Publisher: Point
Pages: 259

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.

**An advance copy of this book was provided for review. However, all opinions remain honest and my own.**

That Time I Joined the Circus was never a book I thought I'd have to suspend my state of disbelief for, but once you do, the story itself can be quite enjoyable. In some way, I guess it's also fitting that the story is about a girl and a circus, and suspension of disbelief is often necessary to fully enjoy the allure of what a circus offers. 

That Time I Joined the Circus is about girl who has to deal with the aftermath of a tragedy and heads off to Florida in the hopes of finding a mother who was never there for her. Stumbling upon the circus she set out to find, Lexi realizes that her mother isn't there, but she ends up traveling with the circus because there isn't exactly a world of options for Lexi to choose from. 

From then on Lexi is suddenly given a job in the circus even though she has no apparent skill, which was strange but I got over it eventually. The characters were generally likable, and my favorite character would probably be Jamie because I do like the charmers. The triples were right behind him, or I guess the twins would be, since we learn little about their brother. There was potential in the brother's character (and I am carefully avoiding having to mention his name because I cannot remember), and I think he could have been a favorite of mine had we spent some time with him. Instead, he's just sort of...there, and that makes me a bit disappointed because I love older brother type characters. But the twins were really great characters, and I loved that they were far kinder than they first appeared to be. But I wonder why Lina was so cold in the beginning, because I don't remember an explanation being given. I also liked Nick's character. 

There's definitely a small issue with realism and how memorable That Time I Joined The Circus is. But for me, I didn't really realize I had those problems until after I finished the story. I was all set and ready to give this a four stars on Goodreads, and then I couldn't remember the Lina's older brother's name (which is why I so carefully avoided mentioning it), I didn't quite understand why certain things turned out the way they did, and there are loose threads that have not been tied up. For the most part, the realistic aspect of Lexi's situation isn't exactly plausible. I don't have any first hand experience at the requirements for joining the circus, but Lexi hasn't finished high school, much less graduated from a circus arts school. But she's simply given a job without any sort of formal assessment of her talents. 

There's strange build-up with the romances, and these moments were everything would be vague and would assume you knew what happened, but meanwhile all I want is just to know exactly what happened that night before the accident with Lexi and Eli. I don't want to make assumptions. 

The romances seems all over the place at first, with Lexi falling in love with one guy, kissing another, and oh look - she still has feelings for somebody she never wanted to see again.  You could argue though that the way the romance was done was realistic in it's portrayal. That sometimes the guy you thought you loved most is not the guy that is best for you, and that it may be someone else who suits who you are currently more. I am slightly frustrated that the love interest and romance that was chosen in the end didn't really invoke any big emotion in me - whether it was happiness or anger, but That Time I Joined The Circus might be for you if you like the friends gradually turning into something more story, which I personally really do. But the romance isn't the main aspect of this book, it is more of a way that Lexi discovers herself further by choosing who is right for her to be with. That Time I Joined The Circus is also strongly focused on friendship and how important it is to have something that can feel like home, which are two themes I really appreciate.  I really love that in the end, Lexi and Nick still text each other and they maintain a strong friendship. 

There was one particular part of the story that I wanted to see unfold, but we don't get anything after the revelation. It's in the spoiler section below, so read at your own risk. You have been warned. 
Spoiler: [Mild]
We find out that the lawyer for Lexi's dad turns out to be more than he seems, and that he has any money that Lexi's dad left for her. I thought that was interesting, and I wanted to see Lexi's mom meet with him again. But we don't get any of that, so I'm going off the assumption that Lexi gets the money back or whatever. *pulls out hair*  DO YOU SEE HOW MUCH I HATE GOING OFF ASSUMPTIONS. But essentially, I'd really just would've like to more about the lawyer after Lexi's mom gives the revelation, and that was a bit disappointing.

But man, I'm totally giving bonus points for the Barnes & Noble scene because that was probably my favorite part. The music references throughout the story was a good touch, and the titles were fun. I also thought the way we ended the story was cute.
Spoiler: [Mild]
I'm not sure if I really felt the connection between Jamie and Lina was more than really good friends in the beginning. Even though I knew Lina liked Jamie, I was a bit surprised to see that Jamie returned the feelings, since I didn't pick up on any of that when he was chasing after Lexi. But I thought it was adorabe that they got married in the end, and it gave me some fluffy feels. 
"Everybody's gotta start somewhere."
Overall, if you are a fan of the idea of circuses, you might want to consider That Time I Joined The Circus. I had no problems with liking the characters, but I did have trouble connecting with some of them beyond surface level. I think That Time I Joined The Circus would've gone over better for some readers had it had more time to flesh out serious matters, without breezing through them or not really fixing them, like Bailey who just so happens not to be around anymore. I've heard some people say that Lexi got through situations too easy, or things were too convenient, but for the most part I didn't mind it because just as life is hard for some, some people are just lucky enough to solve their problems easier than others. The way Lexi found her mother was interesting, for lack of better word, because I had expected Lexi to find her herself somehow. I think that was the one part I thought that having it all taken care of for Lexi was taking away from the importance of the story. The whole reason Lexi went to the circus in the first place is to find her mother, after all. But I guess Lexi does technically find her mom, but if she had waited a little longer, she wouldn't have needed to. 

For what it was, That Time I Joined The Circus is a book I would recommend if you are looking for an easy to read, fun story of a girl who finds who she is in this world and what she wants to do, the right person for her to love, and the people who help her discover herself with some ups and downs along the way and some music references thrown in. That Time I Joined The Circus is Lexi's journey that begins in a circus with great friends, and together they will discover who Lexi is meant to be in a place where magic is made. 

3 and ½  coffee cups!




Let's Discuss: In the comments, tell me if you've ever been to a circus. If you have, what was your favorite part? Was it the animals or the talented people? And if you haven't, I'd love to know if you'd want to see one! 


Contact Kaede: 
Goodreads: Kaede
Twitter: Kami178xx

1 comment:

  1. Ooo, I'm glad you mostly enjoyed this book, Kaede! I read it last year and enjoyed it as well. I haven't read many books involving the idea of a circus, and for that reason, I found this book quite interesting. But also, as you said, it was a fun read! Excellent review, Kaede!

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!