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Recommended Reading: Teen Fiction - Circus Tricks

Encylopedia Brittanica defines "circus" as "an entertainment or spectacle usually consisting of trained animal acts and exhibitions of human skill and daring." Unfortunately, we have discovered that circus conditions for both animals and humans are not always ethical or humane, and, in some places, the use of animals in circuses is completely banned. While we do not condone the mistreatment of anyone involved in the circus world, we feel that books with circus settings can provide an atmosphere of wonder and magic. And as the weather gets colder, the days get shorter, and the holidays approach, we will all need some wonder and magic in our lives. In this blog post, we've highlighted five circus-centered books written particularly for teens (although adults can enjoy them as well!).


Titles were chosen by Ellie Epperson, Youth Services Supervisor.


Cover of The Circus Rose
The Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwell (2020)

A retelling of the story "Snow White and Rose Red."


In The Circus Rose, twin sisters Rosie and Ivory travel the world with their ringmaster mother and circus family. When they return to their home base of Port End they find that things have changed drastically. Religious fundamentalists have papered the town and preachers warn of impending darkness. Undeterred, the circus troupe puts on an enormous, dazzling show. However, things go awry during one of Rosie's acts, and it's up to Ivory and her magician lover to save their circus family.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber (Caraval Series #1) (2017)

Scarlett has been dreaming of the day when she can attend Caraval, the once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show. But she lives on a tiny island far from Caraval's magic, with a cruel father who has arranged a marriage for her, and she feels as though her dream will always remain just that - a wonderful, distant dream. Just when Scarlett believes all hope is lost, however, she gets her chance to see the show. Scarlett and her sister Tella, with the help of a sailor, journey away from their home to witness the wonders of Caraval. But the dream performance soon turns into a nightmare when Tella is kidnapped by Caraval's leader, Legend, who has decided that Tella will be the star of this year's show. Tella is hidden away, and Legend promises that whoever finds her will be the winner of his elaborate game. Scarlett believed that the events of Caraval weren't real, but she may change her mind in her desperate attempt to find her sister before time runs out.

Caraval is the first in a trilogy. You can find all three books in our catalog.


Cover of Where Dreams Descend
Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles (Kingdom of Cards Series #1) (2020)

Picture a land covered in ice, full of magic and struggle, and you'll see the setting of Where Dreams Descend. As the novel opens, a group of magicians is vying for a spot in the Conquering Circus. But the competition is fierce and each magician must compete against the others in daring and dangerous magical feats. As the competition continues, the magicians find there is more on the line than a simple circus act - their very lives may be at risk. As magicians go missing, three characters, Kallia, Jack, and Demarco, must deal with their inner darkness in order to stop the darkness without.

Where Dreams Descend is the first in a duology. You can find the recently-released second book, When Night Breaks, in our catalog.

Harley in the Sky by Akemi Bowman (2020)

Harley is a circus kid - her parents run a famous circus in Las Vegas - and she loves watching the acts, especially the trapeze artists. In fact, Harley plans on walking the trapeze herself one day, but her parents insist she pursues schooling instead. Despite her pleading to pursue a life in the circus, Harley's parents don't budge from their decision. After a huge blowout between the family, Harley runs away to join a rival circus, Maison du Mystère. And although her dreams are coming to fruition, Harley must face the hard truths about her past and make peace with the sacrifices she made in pursuit of those dreams.


Cover of We Walked the Sky
We Walked the Sky by Lisa Fiedler (2019)

In 1965, Victoria leaves her dysfunctional home and joins the VanDrexel Family Circus in pursuit of a better life. Over the years she becomes a high wire sensation and her family continues to be involved in the circus.

Fifty years after Victoria joins the circus, her granddaughter, sixteen-year-old Callie, is thriving as a tightrope walker in the same circus. But when Callie's mom accepts a job in an animal sanctuary, Callie must leave the life she's always known, along with her dreams of following in her grandmother's footsteps.

As Callie tries to adjust to her new life, she immerses herself in pictures and memorabilia from her family's many years on the road. She finds notes her grandmother had written to herself with tips for adjusting to her new life in the circus. Callie uses these tips to adjust to public high school and a life outside the circus.

Told in alternating voices between Victoria and Callie, this novel details what it's like to start over and embrace a new life.



We hope you enjoyed this list. Do you have a favorite circus book or series? Let us know in the comments!

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