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I don't know if this was a dream or not, but I swear around 5-6 years ago, I read a book about a young girl who possibly grew up in a circus, and one day she meets a boy (I think he was apart of the crowd?), they fall in love eventually and I swear there was also some supernatural aspect to it, monsters chase them at night?

EDIT: Despite my horrific description, many gave some suggestions, which I am entirely grateful for! I ended up finding the book, it was Freeks by Amanda Hocking.

Description: In a world of magical visions and pyrokinesis, Mara just wants to have a normal life. But is that possible?

Mara has become used to the extraordinary. Roaming from place to place with Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Carnival, she longs for an ordinary life where no one has the ability to levitate or predict the future.

She gets her chance when the struggling sideshow sets up camp in the small town of Caudry and she meets a gorgeous local guy named Gabe. But before long, Mara realizes there’s a dark presence lurking in the town that’s threatening the lives of her friends. She has seven days to take control of a power she didn’t know she had in order to save everyone she cares about—and change the future forever.

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  • Please add a formal answer that you can accept, rather than an edit to the question
    – fez
    Jun 22, 2023 at 6:40
  • @Monique: Feel free to copy any or all of my answer for your own. I just don't like the possibility of things being lost. You can accept your own answer, or any other, by clicking on the checkmark by the voting buttons, as per the tour.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jun 22, 2023 at 12:30

5 Answers 5

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My immediate thought based on the brief description given is "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern. Published in 2011, so it possible to have read 5 to 6 years ago.

From Goodreads:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

Matches to your description:

  • Circus (The Night Circus, from the title)
  • Boy and Girl (Celia and Marco), who fall in love
  • Supernatural (magical duels)

Doesn't match:

  • I don't recall monsters chasing the protagonists at night, goodreads link doesn't indicate monsters
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Twilight Eyes (1985) by Dean R. Koontz hits a lot of the high points.

Front cover of Twilight Eyes

The book begins with Slim sneaking up on, and killing, a "goblin or beast" on the fair grounds of a local carnival. Goblins are monsters which can shape shift between human and bestial forms, genetically engineered super-predators which desire bloodshed and human misery. Created in an ancient, technologically superior era of human civilization, they exist to torment and ultimately murder humans. They can only be seen by a few people, including Slim himself, Rya Raines (his wife), and Joel Tuck (Slim's friend and fellow carnie). These goblins are superhuman and extremely dangerous and genocidal, at least as intelligent as us, and can mimic human behavior. While they appear and act as a normal person would, they experience only negative emotions like fear and hate. Their only pleasure is in torturing and murdering humans.

Slim's claim to fame is his "Twilight Eyes", which give him the ability to receive psychic, or prophetic, premonitions of the future. They also allow him to see through the human seeming disguise of the goblins. These eyes are named what they are because they are colored purple like the skyline at dusk.

After this encounter, Slim proceeds to join the carnival (one of many he has drifted from) as a way to support himself while killing goblins and hiding from his murderous past (in which he killed an uncle by marriage that was a goblin responsible for the deaths of several family members). One of the prominent members of the "carnies" is a young woman named Rya Raines, who quickly becomes his lover and confidant. As their relationship matures, Slim has several more run-ins with the goblins which leads to the revelation that his friend Joel, and even Rya herself, can see the goblins too, and that each of them in their own way has suffered terribly from the goblins' actions in their past. It is soon revealed that Rya had long before made a pact with the goblins to report to them whenever she found someone who could see through their disguise in exchange for safety from their predations. She wants him to make the same pact with them, but he refuses. This reality creates a gulf between her and Slim that comes to bloodshed between them. She regrets this later and after reconciling with Slim she becomes his wife. They decide to go on a mission to destroy any and all of the creatures they possibly can.

Together they set out on a personal mission to wage a secret war against the monsters in a small mining town named Yontsdown, Pennsylvania, the seeming center of their cruel and brutal version of civilization. There they would discover and face the ultimate, diabolical plans the goblins had for the world and all of mankind.

That said, Slim and Rya sound a bit older than you're indicating, and it is more of a horror book than an action/romance.

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The first thing that popped into mind was Niel Gaiman's MirrorMask (2005). Originally a film, a novella recapping the events of the movie was later released.

From Goodreads:

Helena is about to embark on a most amazing journey.

Raised in a family of circus performers, she's always dreamed of leading a more ordinary life. But when haunting music draws her into a strange and magical realm, one where anything can happen, her real life is stolen by a runaway from the other side. Helena must rescue the realm from chaos in order to win back her own not-so-ordinary life.

  • Main character and her family runs a circus
  • Partway through the book, she enters a supernatural mirror world
  • Some of the world's denizens are hostile and chase her
  • Develops a friendship/relationship with another character who is implied to have visited her circus in the real world
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Perhaps The Palace of Laughter?

Miles Wednesday, orphaned, unwashed and living in a barrel, has never been to a circus before—but then the Circus Oscuro is no ordinary circus. There's a strange beast called The Null and an array of sinister-looking clowns, and when an unusual little girl with wings falls from a tower during the performance, Miles's life is changed forever. As Miles and Little embark on an extraordinary journey to rescue two friends who have been captured at the Palace of Laughter, they discover nothing less than the power of friendship and the gift of family.

It mostly fits your description, although there isn't much romance, and from my memory the monsters chasing them are (mostly?) human.

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Adding a placeholder answer. The querent edited into their question that they had found the book, Freeks by Amanda Hocking.

Front cover of Freeks

Mara has become used to the extraordinary. Roaming from place to place with Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Carnival, she longs for an ordinary life where no one has the ability to levitate or predict the future.

She gets her chance when the struggling sideshow sets up camp in the small town of Caudry, and she meets a gorgeous local guy named Gabe. But before long, Mara realizes there’s a dark presence lurking in the town that’s threatening the lives of her friends. She has seven days to take control of a power she didn’t know she had in order to save everyone she cares about―and change the future forever.

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