The Circus - Olivia Levez
This was a quick read, and well paced.
The whole premise of the book is pretty absurd. Let me break it down. First, this girl runs away to join the circus in 2016. Most circuses by that point had gone belly-up, but this girl seems to just stumble over more than one in a tiny UK coastal town. Very unlikely.
And that leads us to Willow, our main character. She is flawed, but not in a relatable way. She has a rich daddy who owns her off on others and can't be bothered to take care of her because "she looks too much like her", his ex and mother of Willow. So Willow spends the whole book as a runaway, while recounting other escape attempts. Some seemed understandable while most seemed straight up spoiled brat moves. And that's where being flawed too much comes into play. How can I feel sympathy for a character when she is clearly in the wrong? The book opens with her ruining her step-mother's wedding dress. And by the end of the book, we still don't have an excuse for why she did it and why she hates her stepmom. Because she's young? Pregnant? We are never given a good reason, so most of Willow's behavior comes off as ridiculous and petty.
And I would like to note that for a girl so "prepared" for this runaway episode, she didn't know squat about street life. She had a list of rules to follow but not one said anything about going anywhere with strangers. She kept putting herself in incredibly dangerous situations because she was too stupid to think "hey, maybe I shouldn't tease the creepy smelly ticket seller" or "don't go into a stranger's house".
In the end, we get closure with a neat bow on top, but seriously? Nobody learned a lesson. Daddy still admitted to not really loving Willow, but he cries big fat tears of joy when she returns home to him. And let's not forget there are 17 years of distant "throw money at it until it goes away" parenting and never really even remembering she exists. You never learn why Willow hates her stepmom. You never learn why any of this had to happen. She ran away so many times she had a detective on her case all day every day, and nobody once thought to send this poor girl to therapy?! Why does a 6/8/11 year old keep running away from boarding school/home? Nobody ever seems to suggest this child might need help.
All in all, don't bother. The whole thing is stupid. And if I'm going to be technical, as the book went along, the editing mistakes got worse and worse. So, I felt no sympathy for the main character, nobody learned anything, and everyone lives happily ever after. Gag me.