Friday, April 05, 2013

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

After Lexi's father dies, she is thrown out on the street with only a rough sense of where to find her estranged mother.  Mom, it seems, has joined the circus!  But when Lexi catches up with the outfit, she finds out that her mother has moved on.  With no idea of where to find the woman and no viable means of support, Lexi is forced to take the only option available to her: join the circus herself.

After the dramatically-predictable rough start, she gradually finds her place amidst the company, makes new friends, and rebuilds her life.  And through flashbacks, we gradually come to understand how she ended up here.  A series of convenient plot twists at the end send the story in wild directions, but Lexi at least grows a bit from her experience before it wraps up.

It all starts off well, but with poor plotting, this is hard to get through.  The flashbacks are at least part of the problem.  For the device to be effective, they have to correspond in some way to the present.  But here they are used primarily to delay the development of the story (what horrible thing did Lexi do?  why won't her friends talk to her?).  And then there's that crazy ending.  It comes largely from nowhere (and relies on information that wasn't even hinted at before -- lack of foreshadowing is always a winner with me!).  Mostly, it just seemed like a desperate attempt to close the story.  Happy endings are fine, but when even the character comments about what a crazy string of good luck she's had, you know something's fishy!

[Disclosure: I received an advance reader's copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of writing this review.]

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