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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

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

That Time I Joined The Circus
by J.J. Howard
Format: ARC
Source: pub
Purchase: Amazon / B&N / IndieBound
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.

That cover! That beautiful circus-y cover! Y'all, I wanted to love this book for the awesome cover alone...but, I didn't. The prettiful cover couldn't distract or shield me from the disappointing story inside *strokes cover with sad face*

That Time I Joined The Circus follows music obsessed, NYC born and bred Lexi has she travels from her beloved city to Florida. After a tragedy and huge mistake on Lexi's part, she is forced to leave NYC in search of her long absent mom. Lexi is told her mom has joined a circus in Florida, but when Lexi arrives all she finds is the circus. Broke and with nowhere to go, Lexi stays, working several circus jobs, finally landing the part as a fortune teller. Lexi soon finds herself a part of a whole new family and entangled in several romantic relationships. But when a few faces from Lexi's past show up, she has to decide what she wants and where her future will take her.

Aside from the lovely cover, this book has a pretty cool title, right? I mean, who hasn't wanted to run away and join the circus? Unfortunately, little else about this book captured or excited me. What could have been a quirky, thoughtful contemporary, turned out to be a mess of a story with trite romantic aspects and an annoying main character. On page five the word “retarded” is used, not as a way to show how ugly that word is, but as a humorous insult on the MC's part, and I just knew that this was a sign of what was to come...

This is a quick read, that can easily be read in one sitting, but I found my attention wavering because of the overall predictability of the story. From Lexi's huge mistake, to the friendships and relationships she develops in the circus, to the faces that show back up again, to where Lexi ends up in the end, everything is easy to see coming. There's only one real surprise in the book and it ended up angering me. When I say the story is messy, I don't mean it's hard to follow, I just mean it isn't put together well enough or tight enough. One of my biggest issues with That Time I Joined The Circus is the fact that there's such a big and important emotional arc being built after Lexi loses her dad, and then all that emotional building is pretty much torn down with the big surprise revelation Lexi learns toward the end of the book. I felt like this revelation was put in merely for shock value and not as a genuinely thoughtful way to grow Lexi's character. And the impact this revelation has on Lexi is not explored in a full way.

All the romantic elements (and there's A LOT) simply left me exhausted! They're not really the swoon-worthy kind of romantic elements, nor are they particularly well-developed. And I really hate who Lexi actually ended up with in the end, even if I saw it coming from the beginning.

Now, let's talk about our main character Lexi *sigh*...honestly, I just didn't like her much at all. She has a very hipster-ish, so above it all, snarky for the sake of snarky vibe that just annoyed the heck out of me. She constantly points out how different she is from her rich, stuck up private school peers and even looks down on her BFF Bailey, even though Bailey didn't come across as mean or stuck up. Lexi makes excuses for her “huge mistake” and makes it seem like Bailey almost deserved Lexi's betrayal. There's no real character growth when it comes to Lexi and I don't think she really learned anything at all by the end of the book. Also, I can't stand music snobs and Lexi is a huge (self-proclaimed) music snob *snore*

I do wish the actual circus setting was explored and utilized more. I mean, it's the friggin circus! You can't get a cooler setting that could be used in SO many ways (but it isn't).

There ARE a few things I did like about this book (and why it gets two cupcakes and not one)...Lexi may be a music snob, but the lyrics added at the beginning of each chapter were cool and the chapter titles themselves were funny. And I didn't dislike all the characters. The people Lexi meets at the circus, and who become her new family, are interesting and likable enough.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: I didn't hate That Time I Joined The Circus, but I have no real love (or even a strong likening) for it. The predictable plot, annoying main character, exhausting romantic elements, and lackluster world-building just disappointed me...but that cover is still gorgeous!


J.J. Howard
J.J. Howard is wearing headphones right now, most likely. She grew up in York, Pennsylvania, obsessed with music, movies, television, and pop culture. You can call her if you ever need to phone a friend for trivia on any of the above topics, but don’t ask about sports, because she is hopeless at those (along with math). 
J.J. graduated from Dickinson College with a BA in English and Tiffin University with an MH in Humanities. She has been some of her students’ favorite English teacher for a quite a few years (she even has a mug somewhere to prove it). THAT TIME I JOINED THE CIRCUS is her first young adult novel. 
J.J. would love to hear from her readers and is always ready to trade playlists. Visit at

1 comment:

Sara @ Forever 17 Books said...

I love that you used that GIF! lol

I liked the book a bit more than you but I agree, there was nothing to swoon over. I need me some swoon!