Book Review: Showtime (Marvelle Circus #1) by Chloe Kayne

Showtime by Chloe KayneShowtime by Chloe Kayne

My rating: ★★☆☆☆

If there is one thing that frustrates me to the point of hair-pulling as a reader, it’s spotting a book’s potential. More specifically, it’s when I clearly see what needs editing and revising in order for the story to improve. In some instances, I have discovered books that are enjoyable yet leave room for more development. Books where the backdrop is solid, writing is fluid, the plot is well-crafted, and characters have layers to peel. The stories and their characters show believability as the writing displays cohesiveness, nicely bundled for readers to delight in. They may not display tact and skill of literary prowess, but they are well-written and—as they should be— gratifying. Showtime, unfortunately, is not one of these books. It’s an immense disappointment in need of hefty revision if Chloe Kayne wishes to show respectable writing.

Self-published or not, a book’s presentation speaks volumes about the author. I’m not talking about the cover design or any aesthetic appeal; I’m talking about mechanics. While typing errors happen, even to the best of writers, one missed mishap cannot compare to a stream of improper grammar and punctuation. Proofread! This is where editors can make and suggest great changes, and if a writer is capable, the story can alter drastically—and for the better. When dealing with the final product, the story should be polished and developed. What Kayne has to offer her readers, however, more closely resembles a draft. I have laid down my technical complaints, but my real issue takes root in Chloe Kayne’s method and approach.

Showtime follows Laila Vilonia as she leaves behind a grim life and unpromising future by beginning anew at Marvelle Circus. In exchange for food, clothes, and a place to call home, Laila starts her new life as a Marvelle laundress, eventually finding her spot among friends and the circus hierarchy. What lacks is a plot, and I wonder what kind of story the author wants to convey. Without any build-up or climax and scant conflict, Showtime readers sit through teen gossip and melodrama between Laila and her friends. As a result, the entire story suffers as small issues become drawn out and each chapter lags. When conflict does arise, it is often insignificant and squashed down almost as quickly as it appears.

As much as the failed direction of Showtime’s course disappoints me, Mary Sue-like elements baffle and bore me. Laila Vilonia is not without personality flaws, yet her mistakes are always forgiven and her faults feel superficially explored. I cannot believe the guilt that plagues Laila for leaving her mother, because I see no authenticity in her character. Miss Vilonia leaps out from Going Nowheresville to become a sought-after leading star, and I question: why? She encounters few obstacles to overcome, and what struggles she does face—both internal and external forces—are pardoned or swatted down like pesky gnats. The “problems,” then, aren’t really problems, and they don’t aid story development or character growth. No growth, in fact, sprouts from Laila’s “journey,” and I feel the prominent lack of true conflict and resolution are culprits.

I also must question the purpose of several characters and their relation to Kayne’s protagonist. Like Sean, for example: the boy from chapter one who holds a “surprising amount of concern” in his voice for Laila. Or Ryan, Dex’s roommate? I don’t see a need for their introduction, or at least for the amount of detail regarding an attraction for the main character if it leads nowhere. Not only does she have several boys pining, but Laila’s talents catch the eyes of enemies. I must say, the villains prove unconvincing in their villain-esque roles. Benelli and his men—part of a rival circus—feel exploited in their immoral traits and thus fail to bring a real sense of danger. Laila’s circus rival, on the other hand, is nothing more than a Queen Bee with nasty tricks up her sleeve. She, too, poses no threat.

After trudging through every page, this is not a book I recommend. That does not make Showtime something you crumple in your hands, toss it on the ground and grind it into cement with the heel of your shoe. It needs refinement and research, but it’s not trash. For goodness sake: I see the faintest inkling of potential in Chloe Kayne’s words. Although mingled in errors, ill-choice diction, and clunky adjective-abuse, there are some pleasant lines that show me the author is capable. A few pretty lines, unfortunately, are not enough to make up for a whole story’s worth of lackluster plot and flat characters.

Thank you to the author, Chloe Kayne, who provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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