Here's the 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: 1) Okay, what about "ran away to the circus, but not on purpose" doesn't just beg you to read more. How do you accidentally run away to the circus? You'll have to read more about how it all ended up that way, but suffice it to say, she didn't intend to join the circus, and it continues to amaze her every day when she wakes up that this is something she's actually done. It was very funny to watch her try and make her way in a completely new community. 2) Speaking of a new community, this was probably my favorite part about this book. Circus communities are portrayed in a myriad of different places, movies, tv shows, books, and the one thing I've noticed that they have in common is their sense of community. They are as tight knit as a family unit, and not only do they care about each other like that, but they fight like it as well. I could have easily been convinced to run away and be friends with all of the folks in this story. Something else that amazes me is how self-sustaining this Circus family was. A teacher for the students, they all have trailers and bunks to live in, I almost thought of them as gypsies. Again, I'm ready to go on the road with Lexi and her crew! 3) The characters - rich and well-developed. Despite Lexi being the main character, I felt like we got to know many of the secondary characters very well. Miz Howard gave them such well explained and developed back stories that it was hard for me to even remember that Lexi hadn't been around for their whole lives. I enjoyed getting to know Lina, Liska, Jamie, and Nick a lot, and they added a great depth to the story. 4) We've been talking a lot about the love story here on FCB, especially with all of our RAIs, so I don't know if it was just on my mind, but there is a love storyline going on in this book. It isn't the main focus of the book although it does play a pretty major role in how things turn out. I was surprised by the way the love story was wrapped up though, and I think a lot of readers won't see this one coming.
What I Didn't Like: Two, teeny tiny little things. 1) The overall story arc was lacking depth. I mean, it wasn't just fluff, but for some of the topics that were being broached, I expected a little bit more. 2) Eli. We meet Eli at the very beginning of the story. All of the other characters had these really great stories, and added a lot to the book, but I felt like, for the role he played, he needed some more development.
Overall Thoughts: That Time I Joined The Circus is one of those books that I would buy a ton of copies of, and just give them out to people. The many dimensions of it will appeal to a variety of people. It's well-written with some great characters and an intriguing enough storyline. The abundance of characters led to a few development problems, but didn't hinder my enjoyment of the story. Read this one for a look at the life of a traveling circus, and you'll be engaged from the beginning. I even felt like I wanted to join up the next time they rolled through my hometown. Don't anticipate a deep, darkstory despite how it begins, and it will keep you reading long into the evening!
My Rating: 4 shots