Show Stopper Review

Show Stopper
Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Early copy via Scholastic (released 1st June 2017)

A dazzling, high-octane read filled with death-defying acrobatics, circus crowds with an appetite for disaster, and two forbidden teenage lovers trying to escape the shackles of their very different lives. Set in a near-future England where the poorest people in the land must watch their children be taken by a travelling circus – to perform at the mercy of hungry lions, sabotaged high wires and a demonic ringmaster. The ruling class visit the circus as an escape from their structured, high-achieving lives – pure entertainment with a bloodthirsty edge. Ben, the teenage son of a draconian government minister, visits the circus for the first time and falls instantly in love with Hoshiko, a young performer. They come from harshly different worlds – but must join together to escape the circus and put an end to its brutal sport.

Thank you to lovely people over at Scholastic who kindly sent me an early copy of this debut novel from Hayley Barker. This book was simply unputdownable. I had heard so many good things about this book and when a book is hyped up so much, you naturally expect great things. Let me just tell you, it wasn't was spectacular.

The story is a dual narrative and the two main characters are Ben and Hoshiko. It's set in futuristic England and the scariest part about this book is the way that things are continuing, it may just be a nearer future than we think! Ben is the son of the Mayor and is the "purest" they come. Hoshiko works in a travelling circus; not out of choice, she is a "dreg" so this is what's expected of her. Pures are natives (or citizens of that country), whereas dregs are immigrants. Dregs are made to do all the jobs that no one wants and to entertain the pures, whereas pures are quite clearly the upper class and think of themselves as superior to everyone else. Although more extreme than the situation the world is currently in, if it keeps going the way it is, I don't think it will be that long until the extremism in this book could become real.

Ben makes a visit to the travelling circus that Hoshiko works in and becomes utterly compelled to her and what she does. Hoshiko is a tightrope walker, one of the best in the country but Ben sees so much more in her than just a performing monkey. He vows to discover more about her and finds out she lives in squalor, is malnourished, abused and risks her life every night; just for other people's pleasure.  They strike up an unlikely friendship and the forbidding of it all from society makes it all the more exciting for them both...

The Ring Leader of the circus is just despicable. Honestly, he is one of the most disgusting characters I've ever come across. He has no mercy or sympathy for the dregs, even though he is one himself. Some of the scenes are just horrifying to read, as he really will do anything to put on a good show...

Though predictable, the relationship between Ben and Hoshiko was a slow burner and really authentic. Some of the side characters, especially the younger children that Hoshiko mothers at the circus are just wonderful. So young, yet no innocence; just pure bad-ass. The characters in the circus were written in a way that made it so believable that they had been brought up in such awful conditions.

I loved the backdrop of the circus, it made the story so much more exciting. It's an extremely fast-paced book and again, short chapters (my favourite!). Definitely a thrilling read for this summer!

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