Lexi’s life has taken a turn for the worst. First she fools around with her best friend, who happens to be dating her other best friend, then her dad dies and leaves her with absolutely nothing. She is told by her dad’s lawyers that they were instructed to send his remaining funds to his ex-wife in the event of his death. The problem is, Lexi hasn’t seen her mother in years. She ran off and joined the circus and that was the last Lexi heard about it. But now, with nowhere else to go, she gets a ticket to Florida, when the circus currently is, and hopes for the best. Life must be laughing at her because there is no sign of her mother when she arrives. At this point, she has nothing, no food, no money, and nowhere to stay. Louie, the circus owner, takes pity on her and gives her a job if she promises to stay with them until the end of the season. Things improve immensely from there until Eli, the aforementioned BFF shows up and throws Lexi’s new life out of whack.
I started this book in hopes to get my next circus fix. Ever since I read Water For Elephants and The Night Circus, I have been searching for something that gives me the magical feeling that only seems to come from circus novels. I wasn’t disappointed. Though this doesn’t quite live up to the gorgeousness that is The Night Circus, it comes close and, really, what more can I ask for? Lexi is smart and self-deprecating and everything I think we are always looking for in a female heroine. When her dad dies, yes she freaks out, but given no other choice, she trudges on like a soldier, never stopping to do the “heroine in distress, needs big strong man to save her” dance. She searches for her mom and when she fails to find her, she takes the job she is offered and doesn’t complain, even when her first task is to shovel shit out of the animal cars. She quickly acclimates to the circus life and, though it is obvious she is depressed and desperately misses her dad, we never see that pity party manifest is a full parade. She tries to keep herself in check and remember that she is lucky to have found a job and a group of people who accept her in these hard times. She has even made friends, Lina and Liska who make things quite a bit easier.
Then there are the love interests. I’ve seen a lot of people saying there are three, but I really only think there are two because I don’t count Jamie. Though he is a bit of a player and he does kiss Lexi once, it’s pretty obvious, to me at least, that his heart lies elsewhere. The two I count are Nick and Eli. Eli, once her best friend in the world, starts to change once he begins dating their mutual friend, Bailey. Then, after the night of fooling around, freaks out and tells her leave and leave she does. When he shows up at the circus, Lexi refuses to even listen to him try to defend himself but he’s determined to have her hear him out and his not leaving until she does. Then there is Nick. He shows up at the circus screaming at Lexi for taking his mom’s job as the show’s psychic. From there, they grow towards friendship and more. The attraction between the two is obvious, but Nick’s life is elsewhere and he’s not sure how long he can stay around.
J. J. Howard’s writing style is perfect for this novel. It’s just the right balance between humor and drama to keep me begging for more. I also love how into music Lexi is. Each chapter starts out with a lyric from a song and though I don’t completely agree with Lexi’s taste, it’s great to read about someone who has a true passion for music that really feels real. The fact that Lexi was also obsessed with Regency romances also endeared me to her quite a bit. I wholly enjoyed every aspect of this novel. My only complaint and it is a tinsy one is that we don’t we get any details about what happened that night between Eli and Lexi. I realize this isn’t a romance novel and I’m not reading it for the smut, but a decent kissing scene to introduce the concept of that night would not have went amiss.
I really think this novel has something forever one. It’s got snarky dialogue, self-deprecating wit, a decent amount of romance, the adventures of a circus, and a story that will make you want to run away and find your own circus. It is a utterly magical tale and I can’t wait to see what else comes from J J Howard.
****Thank you to Point, an imprint of Scholastic Inc for providing me with an eARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review****