That Time I Joined the Circus

( 15 )

Overview


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. ...

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Overview


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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Howard’s well-paced debut is a contemporary twist on the old-fashioned notion of running away from home to join a circus—17-year-old Lexi would much rather still be living with her musician-father, Gavin, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, hanging out with best friends Eli and Bailey, downloading songs, and making music mixes. In this case, it’s Lexi’s long-absent mother who has apparently joined the circus. When Gavin dies unexpectedly, leaving his daughter penniless, her only option is to track down her mother in Florida. Failing to find her, Lexi gratefully accepts work with the Circus Europa. Howard effectively builds suspense by alternating chapters between Lexi’s gradual adaption to an itinerant life with the circus and the earlier days in New York leading to Gavin’s death; the author creates persuasive portraits of both cultures and includes the requisite romantic possibilities. Lexi’s credible voice, tumultuous emotions, and passion for music are authentically adolescent, while her growing resilience adds a tough yet appealing streak to her character and keeps her future in doubt to the very last pages. Ages 12–up. Agent: Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Literary + Media. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Kris Sauer
Lexi has found herself in a very, very difficult position. On the eve of what was both the start of something new and the ultimate betrayal, the unthinkable happened: her beloved musician/DJ father was killed crossing a New York City street. Left utterly alone with no cash, no friends (see aforementioned betrayal), and not even Social Services to step in, Lexi is—according to her Dad's lawyer—left with only one choice: to find her long-lost mother. Her last known location: a traveling circus currently camped in Florida. Left with no choice, Lexi sets out and finds the circus but not her mom, sending her on a journey that ultimately brings her full circle. There is a missing parent to be found, a betrayal to be confronted, a family to be formed. The circus takes her in, gives her a job, and ultimately helps her find what she most needs—a support network as she continues on her quest to find where her heart ultimately lies. First-time author Howard has penned a real gem of a book. Absent much of the typical young adult genre angst and formulaic qualities, Lexi is very real, even if what happens to her (such as the absence of Social Services as this 17-year old travels cross-country and joins a circus) is not. Emotionally true without being gratuitous in either language or romantic misbehaviors, this is hopefully the first of many from this author. A bonus: each chapter features a "theme" song, an eclectic but cool mix of indie and 1980's-ish music that is sure to turn readers on to some new artists. Highly recommended and a must-read. Reviewer: Kris Sauer
VOYA - Lisa A. Hazlett
Lexy's abandonment issues began after her mother bolted when she was a child; now at seventeen, her best friend, Eli; semi-friend Bailey; and father are her entire social circle. Once Eli and Bailey begin dating, Lexy becomes a jealous third wheel—until she and Eli impulsively sleep together. Lexy wakes to Eli's remorse and banishment, but worse are missed calls relaying her father's death. Her father's meager savings went to her circus-employee mother, so Lexy—remorseful, homeless, and friendless—secretly runs to her. Her mother has disappeared from the circus, but Lexy stays, eventually forming close friendships and several strong crushes, when Eli suddenly appears. Lexy is resentful, but new confidence and conceding her own crushes melts her anger. Lexy's mother finally arrives and provides needed perspective by revealing that her husband had forced her postdivorce absence. The trio returns home to rebuild relationships, with Lexy realizing living and loving fully means taking risks. Narrated by witty every-girl Lexy, chapters alternately detail present and past events leading to her circus arrival; this, along with adults' absence in her life and no further attempt to locate her mother, stretch credibility. Younger female readers will not mind, however, enjoying the colorful, behind-the-scenes circus details and Lexy's experiences. More noticeable is Lexy's mother's shaky subplot, and aside from never hearing Bailey's views, her too-convenient mid-term school transfer avoids a needed relationship discussion among the teens. While the ending is tidy and happy, positive messages of family, relationships, and maturity overshadow flaws. Reviewer: Lisa A. Hazlett
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Lexi's dad just died, leaving her alone and penniless in New York City. His lawyer tells her where to find her mother: if Lexi hurries, she can still catch up with the circus her mom was traveling with. Unfortunately, when Lexi arrives in Florida, the circus is still there-but her mother is not. With no other leads and nowhere else to go, Lexi joins the circus crew and starts building a new family and a new life. She's getting over her past-but then her past appears right in front of her. This is a fairly predictable story of a girl dealing with grief and loss on several fronts, and escaping it all in an unlikely place. That's not to imply it is completely formulaic; it's engaging, with likable characters and a bit of humor. Lexi's all-encompassing musical knowledge is a constant part of her story while never becoming her story. Some elements drag a little bit and several of the teen characters sound closer to early 20s than 17, but these are minor concerns for a debut novel.—Brandy Danner, Perkins School for the Blind, MA
Kirkus Reviews
After high school senior Lexi's dad dies, she's forced to head for Florida, where her long-absent mother might be working for a circus. Another compelling reason for leaving New York City--besides being evicted from her apartment and kicked out of her private school because she now lacks a parent to sign her in--is that the night of her father's accident, she slept with her best friend Eli, even though he was dating her other best friend, Bailey. Since Eli didn't come to her desperately needed rescue after her life started to crumble, she's pretty certain he's chosen to stay with Bailey. In Florida, she's quickly hired by the circus and finds devoted friends among the cast and crew. This makes it easier to ignore the mess her life is now in: no school, her still-missing mother and unresolved issues with Eli. Moving smoothly between chapters set in Florida and flashbacks to the days before her father's death, debut author Howard effectively depicts an attractive heroine with a notably sarcastic but nonetheless charming attitude. If things fall apart a bit too fast in the beginning and are resolved a little too facilely at the end, Lexi's narration is entertaining enough to forgive those minor shortcomings. Since Lexi says her "life has a soundtrack," each chapter begins with pertinent and pithy lyrics with band attributions. For any reader who ever has felt like running away to join the circus. (Fiction. 12-18)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780545433815
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/1/2013
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 697,880
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Lexile: 750L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


J. J. Howard is wearing headphones right now, most likely. She graduated from Dickinson College with a BA in English and Tiffin University with an MH in Humanities. She lives in Florida, and 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. Contact her at www.jjhowardbooks.com.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 15 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(8)

4 Star

(4)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

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1 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 2, 2013

    Throughout the book Lexi learns more about life, and how to deal

    Throughout the book Lexi learns more about life, and how to deal with the loss of her father, a mother that abandoned her at a young age, and relationships. The story jumps back and forth from the present to the past. This allows you to understand some of the things she is dealing with in the present that happened in the past.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 29, 2013

    A circus book?!  Yay!!  As children, my brothers and I LOVED the

    A circus book?!  Yay!!  As children, my brothers and I LOVED the circus!!  Except for my extreme fear of clowns (which extends to everything in costume, not just clowns... FYI), going to the circus was something we always looked forward to.  (As long as those creepy clowns kept their distance!!)  Between the animals and the outright crazy performances (how do they DO some of that stuff?!) it was extreme entertainment, no matter what age.




    Our main character, Lexi, the senior who would rather blend into the walls at school than stand out, has two friends... Eli and Bailey.  She is more than frustrated when Bailey and Eli start dating, turning her into the third wheel.  After a HUGE mistake and an unseen tragic event, she's left completely lost, emotionally and physically.  She finds herself in dire straits and ventures off to parts unknown in hopes of finding her mother, who left her when she was very young.  She ends up at a circus where her mother used to perform and decides to ask for a job to give her a place to stay while she searches for answers to her questions about her mother.  




    The story flip-flops between past and present.  This really helps to paint a full picture of Lexi's quest to find herself, and the events that led up to where she is currently.  Each chapter also has lyrics to a song, with the band name and song title, which I really enjoyed.  A few of the bands/singers were new to me, so I actually googled the songs.  I loved that addition to the story!




    That Time I Joined the Circus is sure to entertain.  It has a mixture of circus fun, romance, love and loss.  This is different than what I thought it was going to be like, but I was definitely satisfied with this novel.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 28, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    On the same day that Lexi has an ¿incident¿ (we don¿t find out w

    On the same day that Lexi has an “incident” (we don’t find out what until later) with her best friend, her dad dies in an accident and she is left with no one. Her father’s lawyer suggests she go looking for her mother, who Lexi hasn’t seen in years. With no one left at home to help her, she ventures out to Florida, where the lawyer says her mother was last seen with a traveling circus. When she finally finds the circus, her mom isn’t with them anymore and nobody knows where she’s gone. Lexi has nowhere else to go and no money, so she stays on with the circus until she can come up with a plan.

    The story was told from Lexi’s point of view and switched between the present at the circus and the past several months leading up to her father’s death. Each chapter began with a few lines from a song that captured the mood of the chapter. Lexi was a huge music fan and placed a lot of emphasis on it.

    I found Lexi to be somewhat immature. She had puppy love with several guys she met and tended to make that puppy love a big deal. They were full of meaning and intensity. Her “huge mistake” was built up to be this big deal and while it wasn’t a nice thing, it certainly wasn’t the earth shattering disaster she imagined it to be.

    The setting was very fun and J.J. Howard did a good job of describing the scenes, with the various animals, costumes and areas of the circus. I’ve never read a book centered around the circus before, and I found it fascinating to learn how traveling circuses work. The friends Lexi met while at the circus were much more realistic and dynamic than her crushes/romances. I liked that she found genuine friendship when she needed it most.

    The plot was entertaining in and of itself, but I didn’t find a lot of the transitions to be very smooth. The flow between scenes and chapters was a little choppy. The author has a gift, no doubt, but the story could have used a touch of editing. Also, I noticed a few grammatical errors and one or two instances where some things were switched around. And her name kept switching, first it was Lexi, then Xandra, then X; and she told different people she wanted to be called by the different variations. I’m sure these things will be caught before the final printing, but they are worth noting.

    The sum up: Not quite as deep as it could have been, but entertaining overall.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 10, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    ***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** That Time I Joi

    ***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***

    That Time I Joined the Circus by J.J. Howard
    Publisher: Point
    Publication Date: April 1, 2013
    Rating: 4 stars
    Source: eARC from NetGalley

    Summary (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.


    What I Liked:

    I enjoyed this book! It was very short (well, shorter than what I am used to), but I think the story itself was excellent. I haven't read a ton of books dealing with circuses (I haven't read any?), so this was new to me. The characters, the plot, and the setting was pretty well constructed! Especially the setting - I loved how the author made the setting an integral part of the book.

    Lexi is an awesome protagonist to follow. The book flips between what happened before she goes off to find her mother, and what happens as she goes to find her mother. I like Lexi's way of thinking, and her attitude towards achieving her goals (mainly, finding her mother). I also loved how Lexi was so invested in music! The author knows her music well, because Lexi had a vast knowledge of music! It was an interesting aspect of the heroine that made her all the more real and likable.

    There are many, many characters in this book, as is expected, as the majority of the book takes place in a circus! I loved how the author characterized each character differently and clearly. I really liked Nick the most. Nick is one of the love interests in the book (yes, there is a love triangle). He's also fantastic. I love the scene where Lexi and Nick meet. What a way to meet a guy!

    The story itself was great! Lexi went to find her mother, but instead, she found a circus. She wanted to escape from her best friend Eli and his girlfriend, Bailey, and she did just that. She even met a guy! But I won't tell you how everything wrapped up.

    Speaking of the ending... I cannot decide if I liked it or hated it. Seriously. It was good, but then, I was expecting something else to happen. I was disappointed when that thing did not happen. I am okay with the ending, but I did not see it coming. Again, for most people, that's either a really good thing, or a really bad thing. That is the source of so many good or bad reviews on Goodreads.

    There is a love triangle. And I am oh so let down by it. I like one party more than the other, but by the end, I sort of liked both parties (still liked that one more than the other). In the end, I was disappointed by one guy, and slightly mad at the other guy. But you decide!


    What I Did Not Like:

    The love triangle, like I mentioned above. I did not like the presence of the love triangle, and I did not like how the love triangle was resolved. I am trying to tell myself that everything was more realistic that way, but I still cannot decide if I really liked the ending or not. I think I do. Eh.

    I did not have too many problems with this book. I enjoyed it while I read it, but I probably will not read it again. It is definitely worth the read though!


    Would I Recommend It:

    Yes, sort of. It is a fun, quick read that I liked, but if you skip it, you are not missing the next big thing. I liked this book, but I would go shouting to the masses that they must read it.


    Rating:

    4 stars. This is a great coming-of-age story! If you have the book or ebook, it is highly worth the read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 26, 2013

    So, who doesn¿t think about running away and joining the circus?

    So, who doesn’t think about running away and joining the circus?




    Lexi joins the circus after her father dies.  She ends up in Florida looking for her mother. You can’t help but feel your heart breaking for her.  She has lost her best friends and her dad and has no idea where her mom is. So she ends up in Florida working on a circus.  And there, she finds a different kind of family.  And, there she starts to heal.




    As for the circus characters… I wanted to join this circus! You meet the whole cast of this small circus.  I will say it sparks slightly of being a little unrealistic.  We are told that many of them can take a while to warm up, but the next thing we know, Lexi is moving in and becoming part of the family, literally. But on the same token, they seem to be just what she needs to heal.




    Oh, and the romance! All I’m going to say is that I was totally not cheering for the guy that she ended up with, but, I didn’t write the story, so, I don’t get to call that one.




    Overall, I really enjoyed the story.  I was a bit quirky in places but fun. And seriously, it makes me want to runaway and join the circus… at least for a little while!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 18, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I¿ve really been looking forward to this read. The moment I saw

    I’ve really been looking forward to this read. The moment I saw the novel’s title on Goodreads I knew that it would be a story that I would really enjoy. That Time I Joined the Circus by author J.J. Howard was a fun and quick read that I won’t soon forget. Seriously it had it all. I laughed, I cried, I got angry and best of all I got to experience what it would be like to join the circus (even though it’s a bit more of a carnival). Who hasn’t wondered what it would be like to perform in the circus? Just me? Well anyways, to the review!

                   That Time I Joined the Circus is a novel that takes place right after the death of main character Lexi’s (/Xandra/Alex/Lex/*insert name here*) father. In her dad’s will he gave everything to her runaway mother and Lexi is left with nothing. She doesn’t have a place to live. Her two best friends hate her. Then Lexi learns her mother’s location: A circus. Aware that this is the only place that Lexi can go to and survive Lexi heads off on a trip into the unknown.

                   By the time that Lexi reaches the circus she learns a dark truth: Her mother isn’t at the circus anymore. Lexi ends up with a job at the circus and finds herself making friends with the two trapeze performers Lina and Liska. Lexi soon finds friends and family at the circus. Then she awkwardly meets the tall, dark, handsome and ill-tempered Nick. It doesn’t take long for Lexi and Nick to realize that there’s something between the two of them and Nick begins to play a crucial role in her mission to find her mother. But is it worth it? And can Lexi really live with knowing the truth about her parents or the reason why her mother ran away in the first place?

                   I really loved the way that this novel was written. It was lighthearted but when there were serious and emotional scenes I got feels, not to mention how addictive the plot was. There would be moments that I would be reading and want to put the story away and do other things but I would come to a chapter’s conclusion and have to continue reading. That Time I Joined the Circus is also a novel that I found very unique. I’ve never read a novel that takes place at a circus and I haven’t read any novels where the main character ends up becoming a fortune teller (*le gasp*). Definitely a good read for people who want a very original novel and are fans of the circus (because duh!).

                   Lexi is a music snob. She also makes playlists in her head and is constantly listening to music. Because of that it shouldn’t be a surprise that every chapter opens up with a fun title (some of which had me smirking) and also a song and excerpt of lyrics. Now there were a few songs that I had heard before and had to nod my head at in recognition while there were others that I hadn’t heard before but after seeing lyrics for had to listen to get and get put onto my ITunes. This all definitely made me love the novel all the more.

                   My only complaint about the novel would be the romance. Lexi ends up “romantically involved” with three characters in the novel. Maybe it’s just me, but I have a feeling that if a boy kisses you and then you start to ignore him he’s gonna be both hurt and still chasing you. Just a thought that I had. But when Lexi does finally end up with Nick and everything is going good another character shows up and just about ruins the romance that I was falling in love with! I can live with that, but every relationship that Lexi entered lacked a sense of finality and I have to say that it took away from the story for me.

                   I’d recommend That Time I Joined the Circus to readers that are looking for a fun new read and for readers that want a quick read that you’ll come to enjoy a ton.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2013

    In an era where a "fresh voice" is impossible to find

    In an era where a "fresh voice" is impossible to find and YA lit is filled with so-so writers regurgitating the same characters with the same plots, JJ Howard shakes it up and gives us an incredibly fresh novel. Lexi, as a character, fills a much-needed void in modern YA...she is a realistic teen! Howard's prose is crisp and witty. Her characters jump off the page, and the reader is swept along on Lexi's journey- with tears and laughter. Loved it! I wish I could give it more than five stars.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2013

    Good

    Great book!
    I wish there was a second or third one

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2013

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book from first time author J. J. Howa

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book from first time author J. J. Howard! Lexi was so well written as a 17 year old Lexi is such a fresh character, encapsulating the voice of a typical 17 year old, who is ultimately searching for an identity for herself. This search for identity includes her search for family as she has lost so much. The pithy introduction to each chapter is intriguing and provides a foreshadowing of what is to come. I loved the 80's music references and believe this will open up a new genre of music to a modern audience. The
    alternation between current time and the past lends a nice suspense to the story.
    I look forward to more from J. J. Howard!

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  • Posted April 9, 2013

    I was positively delighted by That Time I Joined the Circus. I o

    I was positively delighted by That Time I Joined the Circus. I often read young adult books as potential additions to my reading lists for my high school students, and often find them extremely cheesy or overly dramatic. However, I found J.J. Howard's writing wonderfully honest, and often hilariously sarcastic. The main character is thankfully, not the stereotypical dramatic whiny teenager, but a more complex, down to earth character, with a punk-rock streak that is quite refreshing. I think that kids and adults will enjoy this book. It's a coming of age story that captures the realities of life's complications, and sets them in the gritty, yet magical world of the circus.   

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  • Posted April 1, 2013

    I really wanted to like this book. Look at that gorgeous cover!

    I really wanted to like this book. Look at that gorgeous cover! And I tried, I did. But at the end, I honestly couldn't come up with a single aspect of it that I enjoyed. Okay, well, maybe the music. But that isn't enough to save it, unfortunately.

    That Time I Joined the Circus had so much potential and was built on a fantastic idea, but it fell apart in execution. The story is centered around Lexi/Xandra/X (depends on who's talking to her), broke and homeless after her father's death and searching for her mother in Florida, where she is supposedly performing with a circus. Lexi herself ends up joining the circus, despite the fact that her mother isn't there. She meets boys, and makes friends, and everyone loves her, and was she supposed to be searching for her mother? Oh, who cares about that? Cute boys! The circus! (By the way, one major issue I have with this book is the complete lack of circus descriptions we're given. So much potential wasted!) 

    Surprisingly (or not, depending on how much YA you read), it's romance, and not Lexi's search for her mother, or even for herself, that drives this book. And that's unfortunate, because the love interests here are not the best. 

    First, we have Eli, Lexi's former best friend and partner in crime. Eli, who cheated on his girlfriend (other ex-best friend, Bailey) with Lexi. Girls, this situation almost never works out. If a guy cheats on his girlfriend to be with you, you don't want him. But that's not the only reason I don't like him. He and Lexi? No chemistry. Also, an incredibly important scene involving these two was left out of the flashbacks. Like, THE scene involving these two. I kept waiting for the past to catch up to that night, to know how exactly it would play out, but it wasn't there! I mean, how did it start? Who initiated it? What was said? We'll never know. 

    Sidebar: Despite Lexi's claims that Bailey is her friend, she shows absolutely no remorse towards Bailey for what she and Eli did. She never even apologizes. Why did the author spend so long developing their relationship through flashbacks, only to leave things unsettled between them in the end? In flashbacks, Lexi is constantly complaining about Bailey because of this or that (mainly because she's dating Eli and taking him away from Lexi), but all I can see is someone who is putting effort into a struggling friendship. 

    Back to the love interests, because there are two (three, if you count a random kiss with a guy in the circus crew, but I'm still a bit stumped as to why it was necessary to the plot). Enter Nicolae. Dark and mysterious and a whole two years older, Nicolae is the bad boy of the love triangle. My main problem with him is how easily Lexi falls for him without knowing anything about him. Their relationship is built entirely on attraction, on chemistry, on "electricity," and that is a gigantic pet peeve of mine. They don't have a single meaningful, personal conversation in which he reveals anything important about himself, and Lexi falls for him anyway. He even warns her away several times! But, of course, that only makes her like him more. Girls, this situation almost never works out. If a guy won't talk to you about himself, won't open up and share, and actually tells you he's bad news, you don't want him. 

    I had many other issues written down in my notes, but this is already turning out to be a pretty long one. I'll start winding down. The story did not reach its conclusion naturally. It's as if the author reached a certain amount of novel-length words and suddenly decided to start writing the end. Many questions are left unanswered, relationships wrapped up too quickly or not at all, and the end result was for me, completely unsatisfying. 

    Overall, That Time I Joined the Circus was a big disappointment to me. I'd been looking forward to it for a while now, pulled in by its beautiful cover and interesting synopsis, and I only wish it had been able to live up to some of its potential. 

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