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Because I am more than a bit captivated by carnivals (and circuses) and because I have been taught my entire life by my very determined mother to never ever go to a traveling carnival (or circus) (because I will be maimed in some way) (because someone is always maimed at traveling carnivals and circuses and she would rather that person not be one of her children thank you very much), I am hyper vigilant about carnival/circus trends in literature and right now folks, I think I'm seeing one.


First, of course, there was Water for Elephants which everyone and their cousin read and then practically no one went to see in the theater this year even though very pretty people starred in the movie. Last year Kate Milford's The Boneshaker was a return to a Bradburyesque carnival that was all kinds of creepy perfection. Then I heard about Genevieve Valentine's Mechanique. A bit on it from her recent interview at Shaken & Stirred:

I guess the seed of this novel was the cumulative effect of being a film nerd since ever; the circus really lends itself to film, in any form, from the Penguin's circus cadre in Batman Returns to the trapeze bits in Buster Keaton's Allez Oop. I also had a developing interest in vintage photography and graphic design and the stories behind the posters and portraits. Add this to the fact that I've always been a sucker for stories about performers (no surprise), and you have the beginnings of a story about a circus that's ragged around the edges, and the performers who are trying to keep it together.

PW described Mechanique as a "steampunk-flavored circus story [that] begins with a disturbing undertone, like an out-of-tune calliope, and develops in hints and shadows" I have it on my wishlist and look forward to reading it this winter because steampunk + circus is too perfect to ignore. (You know I'm right.)

This week I took a look at a couple of catalogs and found Deva Faban's MG Circus Galacticus which is not just about an orphan who runs off to join the circus but it's a circus in space!!! And of course it's all mysterious and there are "deadly enemies" and our heroine has to uncover secrets about her own past but mostly it is at CIRCUS IN SPACE!

This makes me very happy.

And then in the FSG catalog I find The Ghosts of Gribblesea Pier by Deborah Abela which is also aimed at MG readers and follows the adventures of Aurelia who has grown up in the circus, working at her parents small town amusement park. This one includes ghosts which makes perfect sense to me as if there was ever someplace that ghosts belonged it is a circus. Or amusement park. Or carnival. Totally.

I should also mention Tara Altebrando's Dreamland Social Club which is about Coney Island because it is sort of the mother of all carnivals even though it is not nearly as terrifying as the traveling kind but still odd and strange in all the right ways. And besides, I love it and think everyone should read it.

Finally there was Kathe Koja's Under the Poppy which is sort of the grown-up version of carnivals even though it doesn't really travel and it doesn't include any rides but does have a lot of "onstage cavorting with puppets" and, well, if that's not carnival I don't know what is.

So that's what I've got so far but I remain ever vigilant to all things carny/circus. I declare a trend in the making, folks and can I just say how happy I am to see it? (I should also note that I am refusing to notice the angel trend in YA. It's not there, I don't see it. No way, no how. Don't even mention it. SERIOUSLY.)

[Post pic: Carnival in Munich, Germany, circa 1950s; photographer unknown; from the LIFE magazine Photo Archive.]


Nooooo! It can't be trendy, because I'm writing a circus book.

But, more seriously, I think they're always around, right? The circus is kind of a perennial subject of fascination--I could add even more books to your list from the past few years just from YA/kids. The thing that makes it so great is that there's so much room for each writer to bring their own point of view to the table, and yet there's also that indefinable thing that draws us all to it in the first place. (Well, the lots of room for invention thing is true of just about anything, I guess, but I do think you run out of hot vampire boy point-of-view options faster. :-)

You'll adore Mechanique. You also really, really need to read The Night Circus--from Doubleday. BRILLIANT. And did you read Swamplandia? Not quite the same, but a Geek Love cousin for sure.

Maybe they should've ran a free funnel cake promotion tie in to Water for Elephants.

The Boneshaker is some beautiful creepy.

Circus Galacticus is so good. Loved it.

Not just you. Hurray a trend I can get behind! On a related note books about freak shows are totally minor trending in YA at the mo.

Gwenda - I was thinking of you when I posted this! I do think a circus/carnival trend is a good thing because it offers limitless possibilities. (Look at how different all the books in this post are.) And yes, Jodie - finally a trend we can get behind!

And now I have added The Night Circus to my reading list and Doret you are making me want Circus Galacticus very much too.


Always more fun to be had at the show ... Thinking of Angela Carter's WISE CHILDREN, which is pure dazzling theatre on all levels (if not technically a circus, but hey, it's vaudeville!).

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