- That Time I Joined the Circus by J. J. Howard
Still reeling over the death of her father, high school senior Lexi is stunned to discover that he was broke, and she's now left with nothing but a few personal belongings and a ticket to Florida, where her mother was last seen working with a circus. Mom's certainly not there now, though, and Louie Vrana, owner of Circus Europa, has only vague memories of her brief stint with the troupe. Gruff but softhearted, he offers Lexi some work and a place to sleep; with no better options at hand, she slowly pulls herself together, finding rewards in friendship with Vrana's daughters, heartthrob midway-worker Jaime, and eventually, gorgeous womanizer Nick, whose mother used to have the fortuneteller act that Lexi takes over. Love under the big top is but one thread of Lexi's romantic life, however, and her current circus activities alternate with memories of the weeks leading up to her dad's death, during which she and her best friend Eli became lovers, breaking the heart of her other best friend, Bailey, who had been dating Eli. If you've lost count, that makes three serious love interests and one missing mother, all of which is sorted out with a protracted series of revelations and knitted loose ends to secure Lexi's happy ending. If the wrap-up is improbable and awkward, however, the run-up is pretty involving, with a good-natured heroine who can appreciate the absurdity of her situation, a cast of flawed but humane characters, and lots of circus life detail to put a fresh twist to standard YA fare.