Morgenstern, Erin. The Night Circus. Anchor, 2012. 516 p. Grades 10-12. Alternate History. (Alex Award 2012).
Marcus and Celia have been trained since childhood to preform in a competition that centers on a circus, The Night Circus. While they are building more and more extravagant performances, they fall in love. However, the competition ends when one of them dies. The other circus performers along with a friend, Bailey are able to pull the circus together and save Celia and Marcus by trapping them within the circus.
The Night Circus was beautifully written in alternating perspectives from multiple characters. I really enjoyed the amount of perspectives, as a reader, it kept me guessing. It created a mystery of who was I going to read next and what were they going to reveal about the circus. While the language was just pretty to read, it was mostly description. The plot is thin on the ground, however, incredible description of the circus and the characters make up for it. Usually, I am a person who reads for characterization and plot, but with this novel the characterization was enough. Celia, Marcus and all the circus performers were so well done that I didn’t really care what they were doing, I just wanted to be a part of this world for as long as possible. In a way, Bailey, the boy who saves the circus, is kind of like the reader. He loves the circus and wants to be a part of it no matter what. That’s kind of how I felt when reading a book where plot doesn’t play a huge part in.
One of the things I didn’t like about this book was the timeline. It was very jumpy. At times it was very unclear how much time had passed. While the year was at the top of each chapter, it was not made abundantly clear through the text how much time had passed and where the reader was in the story. At one point there was a three-year gap that made the writing seem disjointed. Even though the love story between Celia and Marcus is beautifully written, at times because of the sequencing of the novel it feels like they never spent anytime together and couldn’t have fallen in love.
While I thought this novel was brilliant, I think it is for a certain type of reader and is not for every teenager. The lengthy descriptions and significant page count could make is intimidating or boring to some young adults. I think I would recommend this book to an older reader who already has shown some interest in the literary canon.