Release Date: April 1st, 2013
Genre: Young Adult-Contemporary
Description from Goodreads:
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.
I was really looking forward to That Time I Joined the Circus. Unfortunately, it let me down in a really big way. Apparently, I am one of the few dissenting voices you will hear, but that’s okay because we can’t always agree. That being said, whoa do I have a lot to say about this one. Technically it failed me. The morals in the book also failed me. Like I said in my pre-review, I really should be awarding this one the one-star rating of doom, but because of the fun setting, I felt generous. So two stars it is. But even the circus setting was not utilized to its full potential. Everything about this book fell flat.
So let’s get started, shall we?
Are flat. And it stinks.
Lexi, the protagonist, is hard to like because she cheats on her friend, Bailey, with her best friend, Eli. And then subtly proceeds to tell us all the reasons why Bailey deserved it–she doesn’t come right out and say it, but Bailey is the perfect adventure girl and Lexi could never be as awesome as Bailey is. Bailey’s family has money and Lexi is poor. Bailey shops too much. And she likes to eat at a different cafe than Lexi does, which disrupts Lexi’s life something fierce. Give me a break here. SPOILER So in the end when Lexi gets the guy, it’s okay because Bailey is a bad person. NOOOOOO. And I nearly threw up because I freaking HATE when cheating is rewarded. Cheaters should never prosper. And you might say that Lexi’s dad dies, so she does get her just desserts, but to me, one thing does not relate to the other. The girl who screwed up should not get the guy in the end. And I’m never going to like or root for a character like that. A person’s ethics matter to me. And then, in the end, Lexi decides to NOT apologize to Bailey because she figures Bailey won’t want to see her, but really I see it as Lexi taking the easy way out. So not okay with the way this all went down. Nu-uh. SPOILER (highlight to see).
All you need to know about the rest of the characters is that they are not memorable. Not Nick, Not Lina, Not Liska, Not Jamie. They are forgettable and I’ve already brain-dumped some of the characters’ names, unfortunately. I just finished this last night. That should tell you something.
The Plot & Writing:
Is disjointed, chaotic, and doesn’t know what it wants to focus on or what, exactly, it wants to be. I’m not even sure what the point of this whole book was. SPOILER Girl cheats. Girl’s dad dies. Girl leaves NYC to find mom. Girl finds circus instead. Girl doesn’t bother looking for her mom anymore (WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED THERE?!) even though her mom has all the money. Girl finds two boys. Ex-best friend shows up at circus. The end. No really. There’s a little part where Lexi decides where she wants to go to school and what she wants to be, but I didn’t like Lexi and I couldn’t have cared less. SPOILER (highlight to see).
To be quite frank, the book is boring. The reason it’s boring is because of all the telling in the writing. Lack of tension. Yeah, it’s a quick read, but there are plenty of short books that are better than this one. I didn’t hate this book(I know it sounds like I did), but it was not worth the couple of hours it took to read it.
This majority of That Time I Joined the Circus is set in a–you guessed it– circus. What should be a really exciting and fun setting is a huge letdown because of the lack of skill used to bring the setting to life. I couldn’t even picture this backwoods circus in Florida based on the author’s descriptions. I had to make my own in my head. And the only reason I could do this is because I live here. In Florida. Where the majority of the book is set. I’m pretty sure the author has visited here before, but the essence of the state was not captured in the writing. There was simply too much telling. There was not nearly enough imagery and the sensory language was lacking in a lot of areas. It should have been full of life–sights and sounds–but it just…wasn’t.
So no, I cannot honestly recommend this book. I wish I could, and I never like being mean in my reviews, but if you are looking for a circus setting that is brought to life through writing, you should try Water for Elephants. Even The Night Circus (which I DNFed because of the slow pacing) was executed with much more skill than this. Just my opinion, though. Take from it what you will.
The one thing I did enjoy was the music quotes and song titles that head up each chapter. I love that in books.
Other bad thing? The R word was used on page 5. It was only once, thank goodness, but once was enough.