Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 13, 2012
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True heroes don't have to be people. Water for Elephants proves this. It's an epic novel filled with heroes, villains, heartbreak, and even a circus. It will catch readers and sweep them off their feet, giving life to a difficult time in our history and opening your eyes to animal cruelty.

In the early 1940s, just after the Great Depression, Jacob Jankowski is finishing veterinarian school at Cornell University when his parents are killed in a car accident. He is left with nothing. Starting on a journey to one day reach New York, Jacob follows some tracks and sees a train in the distance. He hops aboard and finds a circus train filled with workers, animals, and a new job.

Jacob's adventure with the circus has many twists which lead to friends and love, but also sacrifices and enemies. These enemies in the Benzini Brothers' Circus are brutal and callous. If you crossed them, you'll be thrown off the moving train. Though these conflicts have a great impact on the story, the heartfelt friendship that Jacob and his elephant share is the most important. He is willing to protect her against any harm and truly cares for this animal.

Sara Gruen shows the marvel and dread of circus life. I really enjoyed the glimpses into the past through the photos of old circuses found between the chapters.

I would recommend Water for Elephants to readers of almost any age. Anyone who appreciates love but also heartbreak and action will enjoy it.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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