Thursday, December 27, 2012
by Hannah Barnaby
Another entry for the YALSA 2013 Best of the Best Challenge!
Portia loves stories. As she sits in the evening, she listens to her relatives talking and retelling their stories. But one by one, each of them leaves, until there is only her father and her aunt. And then even her father leaves. Left in her aunt's care, she eventually ends up at The Home, a place for wayward girls.
Unable to stand the stifling Home and the memories of her dead friend, she runs away, taking a red bicycle and riding off to join the circus. There she meets the freaks, the strange people that make up the Wonder Show, the side tent to the regular circus. Here, the worst thing in the world is to be normal. Portia is waiting there, just to hide from the people that want to take her back to The Home.
As Portia starts travelling with circus, she gets to know the freaks a little more, and learn their stories. She makes new friends, learns to stand on her own. When the men finally find her to take her back to The Home, she has to start writing her own story.
So, if you can't tell by my other posts, I'm not huge on historical fiction, but I LOVED this book. While very different than my normal materials, it was a great read, and I really enjoyed it.
One of the things I loved about this book is Portia. She's a little sassy, but you can see behind the sassy she is just trying to survive. She has been torn from everything she knows and set on her own. The stories give her a way to cope with this, and help her understand what is going on around her. She definitely grows in confidence and in compassion throughout this book.
I also really like that although they talk about "freaks" in this book, you get to see the other side of them- what makes them human. The narration style occasional jumps to the perspective of one of the characters, which helps you get a view inside their heads. You get one from each of the "freaks," including each of the conjoined twins, and this helps you see that they are fairly normal people, with their own concerns and worries. This would be a good book to study perceived differences versus reality.
Overall, great book. The story line, while not incredibly fast, has lots of detail and fun little twists. Readers can sympathize with Portia and her feelings of abandonment. The chapters are fairly short and move quickly. I would recommend to middle school age and older, because of interest and one scene involved the twins. Good book, I enjoyed it a lot!