That Time I Joined the Circus

J.J. Howard. Scholastic/Point, $17.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-545-43381-5
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.)
Reviewed on: 02/18/2013
Release date: 04/01/2013
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