Monday, September 8, 2014


Title: That Time I Joined the Circus
Author: J.J. Howard
Publisher: Point
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Genres: YA, Contemporary Romance
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 5/5


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.


As I absolutely adore books about life in the circus, That Time I Joined the Circus came as a much anticipated treat. After several devastating incidents, including the death of her father, Xandra Ryan leaves New York City to look for her mother. Not immediately finding said mother, she ends up joining a circus in order to have a job and a place to live.

Despite the fact that this is not at all an action and suspense driven book, I simply couldn't put it down. The constant switch between Xandra's story in the present and her back story completely captivated me.

The characters are well crafted and lifelike. Regency novel-loving Xandra with her feelings of inferiority, slight insecurity and sadness over her recent losses, is prepared to work hard and do whatever it takes to find her mother, as well as herself, in a world where nobody seems to care about her any more.

When circus life presents her with distractions like the stunningly handsome Jamie and the equally handsome, enigmatic Nick, her attention strays from mother-finding to boy pursuing. At one point I thought the story was going to descend into that clich├ęd pit called a love triangle. Fortunately, with two of the three guys in Xandra's life having other fish to fry, this doesn't happen.

Without giving spoilers here I can say that the end of this lovely, light tale is not quite what one would expect but, nevertheless, very satisfying. I would happily recommend this heartwarming, clean, tender and thoroughly relaxing story to readers of all ages. 

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J.J. Howard is wearing headphones right now, most likely. She grew up in York, Pennsylvania, obsessed with music, movies, television, and pop culture. You can call her if you ever need to phone a friend for trivia on any of the above topics, but don’t ask about sports, because she is hopeless at those (along with math). 

J.J. graduated from Dickinson College with a BA in English and Tiffin University with an MH in Humanities. She has been some of her students’ favorite English teacher for 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. 

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