Annotation: Fifteen-year-old orphan Beatrix “Trix” Ling hates her life as an outcast, charity case at the prestigious Bleeker Academy for Girls. Tormented by the other students, all Trix can think about are her dreams of following in her parents’ footsteps as an astronomer. What Trix doesn’t realize is that her chance at exploring the stars is closer than she thinks when the mysterious and exciting Circus Galacticus comes to town.
Personal thoughts: This is one of those novels that I had in my pile of “to be read” for a long time. I hadn’t heard much about it so I wasn’t in a rush to pick it up. I am often very surprised by how the novels that don’t get as much attention are some of my favorites. Circus Galacticus is well-written and truly very easy to enjoy. Deva Fagan does a great job with adding the right amount of humor to the story while still managing to portray the more serious aspects of what Trix is going through below surface level. I was intrigued from almost the first chapter, and wish that I had read this novel sooner, as I ended up really liking it. I hope that the author decides to write a sequel. I would definitely read it right away if she does!
Plot summary: Being an orphan and a charity case at the prestigious Bleeker Academy for Girls isn’t an easy life for fifteen-year-old Beatrix “Trix” Ling. Although she is a talented gymnast, Trix doesn’t feel like she fits in, constantly tormented by the other girls and looked down upon by cruel Headmistress Primwell. To make it through the dreary days, Trix dreams about following in her parents’ footsteps as an astronomer. Although they were killed in an accident when she was six, Trix still remembers the stories her mom and dad told her about the stars, and can’t wait until she can leave Bleeker Academy forever and begin studying the mysteries of the universe. What Trix doesn’t realize is that she is about to leave Bleeker, and Earth, for good. As part of a school fieldtrip, Trix and the other stuck-up Bleeker girls go to see the Circus Galacticus: a mysterious and exciting show held under in a large and beautiful Big Top. While exploring the tent, and attempting to avoid Primwell, Trix discovers the truth about the circus: the performers are actually from other worlds, all across the universe, and the Big Top is their spaceship. Trix meets the charismatic and charming Ringmaster who invites her to join the rest of the troupe, leaving her humdrum life on Earth forever. Trix is ecstatic, but doesn’t realize that there is more to her life on the Big Top than cotton candy and circus acts. A dangerous presence in the universe is after her, and she must determine why before it is too late.
Review: Set in a universe that is easily traversed via wormhole, where Earth is in a “boondock galaxy” and a strict government controls how all of the inhabitants look and act, Circus Galacticus, written by veteran author Deva Fagan, delivers a likable protagonist, interesting cast of characters, and original story that is entertaining and enjoyable for tween and teen sci-fi fans. The beginning of the novel introduces a premise that is somewhat common: Trix is an orphan who doesn’t fit in and longs for the life she had with her parents. After the first two chapters, however, the story goes in a very unique direction. The author does an excellent job of world building: describing in vivid detail the Big Top and its inhabitants and allowing the reader to experience the excitement of what they hold with Trix. There is also some interesting mythology that goes along with the universe that Trix discovers, including a centuries old conflict between two opposing powers, the key to which appears to lie in Trix’s past. Although a sequel has yet to be announced, Fagan definitely leaves the story open to at least one more novel. Hopefully Circus Galacticus is the first in a series, as it holds the potential of being something very unique and enjoyable for tween, teen and adult readers alike.
Reading level: Grade 6+
Similar titles: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Counter Clockwise by Jason Cockroft, Have Spacesuit – Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein, Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson.
Themes: Space, circus, spaceships, orphans, friendship, fitting in, war, gymnastics.
Awards/Reviews: Positive reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal and Kirkus.
Series Information: Sequel not announced, but appears likely.
Discussion questions:- Why do you think Della was so mean to Trix? Have you ever been treated the way Trix was at Bleeker?
- Why do you think Trix was able to pass through the mirror in the Big Top?
- Do you think Trix belongs on the Big Top? Why do you think she is so unsure?
- Compare Sirra to Della. How are they similar? How are they different?
- Do you think Sirra was right in trying to protect her brother? Why or why not?
- Would you like to read a sequel to Circus Galacticus? What would you like to see happen if a sequel is written?