Hey guys! I was thrilled when I received an early proof of Show Stopper by Hayley Barker from Scholastic. Plus it included popcorn in the promo package and snacks make me happy, but I digress… Show Stopper is kind of amazing. And by that, I mean I LOVE it.
And this is why:
Set in a dystopian UK that has closed its borders, the descendants of immigrants are seen as less than human. Called “dregs”, they live in poverty. And the poorest of the dregs? They are forced to sell their children to a travelling circus. A circus where they must perform; navigating the dangers of their sabotaged acts, the cruel megalomaniac ringmaster and the bloodthirsty crowds that fuel the brutality. We see the circus and its horrors from within, narrated by the POV of Hoshiko, a talented tightrope walker and the star attraction of the show.
We also see the world of the ruling class, “the Pures” through the POV of Ben, the son of a government minister, who believes that dregs should be eradicated. When Ben goes to the opening night of the circus, it sets a chain of events into motion, irrevocably changing both his and Hoshiko’s lives as they collide together.
The concept of this novel is brilliant and feels like a stark warning of the ramifications of intolerance. It’s a topical subject and carries a lot of relevance in today’s society, and I really enjoyed how this novel explored that. Although technically a dystopian, Show Stopper read more like a contemporary (if contemporaries had evil ringmasters and terrifying circuses), which made for more unique reading. I’m not the biggest fan of most dystopians, but I was hooked on this one!
Hoshiko was a strong, brave character, trying to survive against the odds in the circus, and I loved how Ben became fascinated with her, trying to understand her and the world she’s a part of. Ben starts off as privileged as you’d expect, but he has a deeper sense of empathy than the rest of the “Pures”, which leads him to start searching for a better understanding of the world, a more human understanding.
Their POVs are written as short chapters, some as short as half a page! I liked this a lot as it made everything feel more immediate, more immersive, and it better entwined Hoshiko and Ben’s perspectives. It also made the book VERY hard to put down! It was addictive reading and I read it in just a couple of sittings, propelled through by the shorter chapters.
I also adored the setting. Bloodthirsty circus? Yes please! The entirety of the novel was set in and around the circus, which made for an atmospheric backdrop. All in all, I’m giving Show Stopper 4/5 stars and a big recommendation for YA fans.
Thanks for reading guys! Is anyone else a fan of circus themed novels?