Sunday, April 14, 2013

Review: THAT TIME I JOINED THE CIRCUS by J.J. Howard



Author: J.J. Howard

Publication date: April 1, 2013

Publisher: Point (Scholastic)

Source: an ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.

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.

Review:

Lexi, or Xandra as she was called in the first chapters of the book, has been raised with basically no parents. Her mom ran out, her dad is always gone, and she only has two friends. Technically, her only friend is Eli while his girlfriend Bailey is an add-on. You can tell from the beginning that she has a crush on him. I knew that we wanted to root for them and I did, but at the same time, I felt like it was another "You Belong with Me" plot. Lexi then finds out that her dad dies after she did something very shameful so she goes off to find her mother who inherited the rest of her dad's money. That's when she lands at a circus in Florida. Her mom isn't there, but since she has no money, she begs to stay on and work. 

I was so excited to read this because of not only the cover, but it is about the CIRCUS. It's one of those YA plots that people would love to have, but never seem to get. I read it...and wasn't very thrilled.

The story changes from present to past frequently for us to see whatever problems Lexi has had in New York with either friends or family. While there is usually some kind of "discovery" when you have a story with the main character searching for something or someone, I felt as if the story bounced around. Maybe I'm being extremely picky this time around, but the add-ins that usually make the plot meatier or better seemed to just be flat for me.

Then the boys. Lexi? She needs to control her mouth, my gosh, and it isn't for any profanities. She kisses no less than three guys, breaks up a friend's relationship, and becomes the stereotypical male who never calls after a date with one guy. I mean, she kisses him and has a great connection...then cuts off everything without an explanation. I get why she did it and even though it was for a good reason, I didn't feel that it was necessary to not at least let him know. Another problem I had in the boy situation:  We see from day one that there is something between Eli and Lexi. That's not my problem. The problem I had was that we were supposed to feel bad for Lexi and only feel sort-of bad for Bailey, but mostly like she was the evil girlfriend who snatched Eli away. No. Just no.


It reminds me of my love triangle post where I discussed about the possibility of a two girls and one guy love triangle. In it, I pointed out Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me" song. Is the girlfriend really that evil or just the "victimized" girl feeling like she is owed her love interest. Imagination or reality? Sure, guys are sometimes oafs in the fiction world and has the whole Stupid Spineless Syndrome going on sometimes, but is every guy incapable of picking out the girl for him? Is he actually for the girl singing (if not mentally saying) "You Belong With Me" or is that girl just victimizing herself and wishing that she will be the triumphant underdog?

Where am I going with this? Well, I see where Bailey could be annoying. I see how Lexi thinks that she deserves Eli and I commend her for actually beating herself up after her wrongdoing. However, I think Eli is a pig. I felt the "we are supposed to like him" vibe throughout the book, but I simply could not do it. Lexi is blamed for their betrayal and while she does have a "I'm mad at you" scene, it wasn't satisfying for me. Bailey was pitied, but quickly pushed aside because she obviously does not deserve or is a suitable match for him...or at least that is what we are supposed to think.


I think my conflicting emotions for that subplot got in the way of me actually liking the book. I only slightly smiled with Nick, considering I didn't fully see the necessity of his character. Out of all three of them, I actually liked Jamie the best.

I also liked the two sisters, Lina and Liska, with Liska coming out on top. They both, Liska especially in my mind, could have had weightier stories in my opinion. I don't want to have any spoilers; however, I feel the need to mention Lexi's mom. The way it all ended out to be and the process of it happening? I was disappointed. It felt like it was neatly folded up and too fake for me.


Don't despair! I did like the music quotes at the beginning of each chapter, that was a plus. Lots of novels seem to be incorporating music and so far, I have not grown tired of them. I felt like I was on a journey while reading, I just wasn't too captivated by it. Not only was she confusing with her name in the beginning, Lexi was not my favorite character to read about.

Overall, this novel was one of those books where I instantly feel insecure after seeing everyone's reviews. Why did so many people seem to like it? Why didn't I? Different tastes. Different expectations. Different people.

Verdict: A novel that left me more disappointed and peeved than delighted, but might be great in someone else's eyes.

What do you think? Did you like it? Will you read it? 

25 comments:

  1. Wow. I felt the same way with as you with only a slight amount more vitriol. Book made me angry. But you are right. It might be a great read for someone else. Fantastic use of GIFs here.

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    1. Oh, you give me so much relief! I'm glad I wasn't the only one. Thank you :)

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  2. I'm debating. I've got a galley sitting around that I keep thinking I *should* get to, but I keep passing it up for other things. Sounds like it's for a good reason. :P

    I'll probably get to it, but I'll put it off a little longer.

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    1. I probably shouldn't say this...but yes, it probably is for a good reason ;)

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  3. Eh. Your review helped me decide not to read this book. The whole discovery plotline doesn't sound that great and I can see myself hating Lexi too much to enjoy the story. Don't feel bad about not liking it-I can tell it wouldn't work for me and that's fine if it didn't for you!

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    1. That's pretty much how I felt, your second sentence summed it up. Thanks!

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  4. NOO I was so excited for this one! Darn.

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  5. This sounds like a lot of drama, Sunny. Not the kind I like either. Kissing three different guys? I think Lexi would irritate the heck out of me. Sorry this wasn't really captivating. Great review. :)

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  6. I liked it, yes. But don't feel bad about our different tastes! You rock, and I rock. It's as simple as that! (:

    And YES. I love books with music! I really would like to see more of them-- and recommendations? Fab review, Sunny! :D

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  7. It's always so interesting how people respond differently to the same book. I was intrigued by many of the things you liked about the synopsis as well, but yours isn't the first mixed/disappointed review I've seen, so now I'm unsure! Thanks for your honest review, in any case. I will have to do more thinking upon this. :)

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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    1. It is! Oh great, I'm glad that I'm not the only one :) Thank you and let me know what you decided and if you do read it, which side you're on!

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  8. I am glad to read this review because I was thinking I would pick it up..I will pass now!

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  9. I'm only seen positive reviews for this book, but it's always nice to see a different opinion. The love triangle sounds super disappointing, though, especially since I don't like love triangles too much in general unless they're done well. Amazing review!

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  10. Lol - love this post. This book intrigued me because of the circus aspect, but I won't be reading it. I'm just not feeling it. Your review, though, was great! :)

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  11. I actually really liked this one, though I agree that I never fully connected with any of the characters...most especially Eli. I had some of the same complaints as you, but I was able to overlook a lot and these gripes didn't lessen my enjoyment of the book as a whole. But as many have said before me, I love your honest review, and it's always nice to see a book from a different perspective.

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    1. Thank you, Jen! Different preferences, it's a weird thing to see, but I'm glad we all them!

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  12. Oh dear. I got this one from NG, but I'm not sure I'm going to be able to bring myself to read it. This is a heroine that I will not like. I also do not care for past/present shifts. I do love circus stories, but I don't think it's enough to give this one a go. All that love triangle talk, would drive me insane. Thanks for this review!

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    1. This is definitely another time where I thought about you, Lauren, because of the love triangles! Thank you!

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