Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: Wonder Show - Hannah Barnaby

Where I got it: ARC from AmazonVine
Rating: 3.5 stars  
Cover Rating: 4 stars (Interesting. Certainly lets you know it's about a circus. I enjoy the muted colors, it gives it a 1930's feel.)
Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: March 20, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Page Count: 274 p.
Buy it: Book Depository / Amazon
Add it: Goodreads

Step right up and see the sights at the incredible WONDER SHOW! You won't believe your eyes about what you find inside. A girl with no arms? Two people joined together? A wayward young girl trying to find her family again? Yes, yes and yes! Portia's father said he'd be right back, but years later she's still with her aunt...waiting. Her aunt ships her off to McGreavey’s Home for Wayward Girls, which is not as nice as it sounds(especially the owner, Mister). Lots of terrible things happen around Portia, so she decides to find her father. After a circus card flies out of a truck, she sets off to join the circus. It's really the Wonder Show she ends up with, which makes her an oddity. She's one of the few "normal" people there. How long does she have before Mister come looking for her though? And, how will she find her father's face among the hordes of circus-goers? She'll have to make friends where she is and hope that soon things will be as they should be.

This was certainly an interesting book. Even a couple of days after finishing it I'm left with mixed feelings. It was very well-written, there is no doubt about that. The story was highly engaging and lots of twists and turns and a fantastic ending, but I don't know that I loved it. I enjoyed it though. Portia was an interesting girl, who's life took a lot of unexpected turns. Her father left and she never really knew her mother. She end's up at McGreavey's and does befriend some girls, but misfortune befalls one of them and Portia doesn't know if she can handle being there anymore waiting for her father.
I really enjoyed all the characters, and how the "freaks" in the show were based off of real performers from back in the day. Some of the characters you end up getting to know a bit better than others, but in the end I felt like you never really knew any of them at all. If there are more books about Portia, I think you could see a stronger bond forming between her and the others, but relationships take time. The bond is strong, but not deep. It's a side effect of people running from their pasts. No one wants to share their secrets, so it takes a bit longer to get to know them.
It was also interesting seeing the sideshow side of things versus the main circus hub-bub. It was a different take on a circus story. The story is mostly in third person following Portia around, but some chapters are first person narratives from various characters. I really liked how well this worked for the story. It gave you a better view of all the goings-on. This is a book that drives off the beaten-path a bit and is a great read. There's lots of themes going on throughout, most of all finding "home". Portia feels wayward, because she just doesn't know where she fits in, no one seems to want her. Definitely check this out if you're in the mood for a good story that's a little different than the typical YA fare.

First Line:
"Wayward can mean a lot of things."

Favorite Lines:
"Three steps down the back stairs was the door, which had become so familiar to her that Portia knew every nick and imperfection in its face. She opened it carefully, to keep its voice from sounding."

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