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

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

Publication Date: April 1, 2013
Publisher: Point
Genre: Contemporary
Age Group: Young Adult
Source: e-copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review
Page Count: 272 pages
Order Links: Amazon | B&N
My Rating: 4/5 stars


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
                                                       -goodreads.com description

I really enjoyed this book! I saw it on NetGalley and wasn't sure if it was something I'd want to try, but I'm really glad that I did! I found myself completely wrapped up in the storyline to see how things for Lexi would play out. J.J. Howard does jump back and forth between the present and the past, which allows us readers to see what transpired prior to Lexi's current situation. It did take some getting used to, but I think it was a key element to the novel.

I was a huge fan of Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, so I already knew I would like reading about life working on a traveling circus.

Our main character Lexi, has escaped from New York City to track down her mother after a very sudden tragedy occurs in her life. She finds herself joining up with a traveling circus in hopes that her mom will be there. However, she has no such luck in finding her. Lexi decides to stay on and what we have is a beautiful, fun story about a girl whose life has been completely turned upside down and is learning how to live a different way. She trades her old broken friendships for new ones and also trades her insecurity and shyness in to become bolder and seek out new adventures.

Along the way with those new friendships, she does form a couple of romantic interests. Two of them I understood completely and naturally fit in with the storyline, but one other seemed a bit thrown in there and nothing ever really came of it.

Eli, is Lexi's best friend from New York and after dating her other best friend Bailey, the two started to drift apart. Lexi continuously felt like the third wheel, and then started to feel left out. My heart really ached for Lexi. She doesn't really associate with the other kids from school and the two best friends she does have start dating each other and then she is left with no one and becomes quite lonely. However, a very big event occurs that involves the three of them, leaving Lexi heartbroken and confused. Not too long after reaching the circus she meets Jamie, who takes her under his wing and shows her the ropes and offers her friendship and a shoulder to lean on. I honestly expected him to play a larger role than he actually did in the story. Finally, there is Nick, who I personally really liked. Not to mention, the way he and Lexi meet is quite humorous. The two end up being quite close and he is another person she comes to trust and rely on.

At first I didn't feel like I got the resolution that I wanted in this book concerning Lexi and the relationships she had formed. And then I think maybe I've been a bit too critical of a certain character. People make mistakes and this one made a particularly bad one, but is still deserving of forgiveness. I admire Lexi for being able to forgive those who had hurt her, which is why after all is said and done I really did like her as our protagonist.

This is a light, fun read that tells about a girl who not only ends up working for a traveling circus, but who also finds herself on a journey to self-discovery and self-worth.

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28 comments

  1. Hmm. I have been very curious about this one so I am happy to read your review as I have come to trust your opinion. You give it 4 stars but the post does not seem like this book excited you much. Is that feeling correct or am I misinterpreting the review?

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    1. Funny you say that... I originally had it up as 3.5 stars but changed it. I really did enjoy the story. Yet there was something that seemed to be slightly missing for me. I have to have a bit of romance in my books and I guess that was what put me off a bit so that could have made my review seem not as enthusiastic. I did have trouble writing this because I did read it so fast and didn't want to write anything that might spoil it. So that could be what you're seeing and in retrospect I probably should go back and change back to a 3.5 since that's what my gut originally told me. I liked this book- I didn't LOVE it. Would I recommend it? I would. : D I love it when my phone shows I have a comment from you so thank you for making me stop and think!

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  2. Wasn't this just amazing... I adored Lexi and enjoyed this s much. Lovely review. Glad you liked this.

    Jenea @ Books Live Forever

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    1. Thanks Jenea! I'm glad you liked it!

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  3. Aww thanks : ) Your clarification makes a lot of sense. I have definitely had books that sort of fell in the middle and I wasn't sure where they should land stars-wise. I think with your added detail I will still keep this book on my radar but maybe for when I am feeling something a bit different. Maybe a summer beach day?

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    1. Definitely keep it on your radar and see if it's something you'd like. :D

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  4. I have been very curious about this one. I can't wait to read it! Fantastic review. I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

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  5. That's exactly why I didn't request it on Netgalley! I wasn't sure if it was for me but now I'm really regretting that decision because I've read so many great things :D I'm glad you enjoyed this one as much as you did Jessica!! Thanks for the fab review ♥

    Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows

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    1. I was so hesitant about requesting it because at the time I wasn't reading a whole lot of contemporaries, but in the end I am glad that I read it.

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  6. I think I have this one and it looks cute. I think I would like it but not love it which is why I haven’t read it yet.

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    1. Exactly! I liked it, but didn't LOVE it. I only had a couple of days to read it before my e-copy expired, and I really wanted to give it a shot. Needless to say, I'm glad I did. It was a nice change of reading material.

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  7. I don't think I've read a book featuring a travelling circus just yet. I think I would enjoy this fun and light read. :D Great review!

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    1. Ooh, books about circuses are alot of fun! :D I love reading about the inner workings and seeing how performers, crew, etc live.

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  8. I almost bought this the other day in the bookstore- wish I had now. The cover is great! And Water for Elephants is one of my fav adult books.

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    1. I loved Water for Elephants! And this one definitely reminded me of a less sad, younger version. :D

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  9. Oh, this will definitely be added to my shelves, great review, Jessica! I love circus stories these days - I am currently reading Carniepunk, and I love it so far!

    Thanks for letting me know about this book, I look forward to reading it :)

    Lexxie

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    1. Thanks Lexxie! Ooh, I'll have to check into Carniepunk!

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  10. Great review Jessica! I have heard mixed reviews particularly about the romance aspect and some of Lexi's decisions. It sounds like a book I would enjoy tho, will keep an eye out! x

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    1. Thanks Danielle! I definitely took issue with a few aspects of the book, but overall I found it be enjoyable.

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  11. I like Circus books and I have been wondering if I would like this one. Based on your review, I think I like it but not love it. Nothing wrong with that! Already on my to-read list.
    BookishTrish @ Between the Lines

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    1. Trish- yes! This was a like, but not a love. I enjoyed it and didn't feel at all like I wasted my precious reading time on this book.

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  12. My love for Water for Elephants is part of why I wanted to read this too. lol I'm glad you enjoyed it! :)

    ~Sara @ Forever 17 Books

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    1. I loved WFE! Such a great book! It definitely got me into the circus backdrop, lol.

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