DISNEYLANDERS by Kate Abbott
Orchard Hill Press | Org. Pub. Date: May 12, 2013 | Pages: 184
Target audience: Technically middle grade but Disney fans of all ages will enjoy.
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What’s it about? Casey’s on her annual Disneyland trip with her parents, and is hoping the magic of her vacation spot makes the drama from the past year makes her feel better. Her best friend has decided she is too cool for her, and Casey is nervous about starting high school in the fall. When she meets Bert accidentally on an attraction, she not only finds out that he shares her love of all things Disney but he’s working through some problems of his own. Will their short time together and the comfort of a familiar place help them both work through growing up?
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It’s really difficult to find a good novel set in a Disney theme park. Most of the time the facts are off, the feelings are not right, and you can tell it was written by someone who just doesn’t get it.
Kate Abbott totally gets it.
Her new novel, Disneylanders, reminded me so much of vacationing with my parents to Disney theme parks every year. The road trip, the quirks (schedules, the small talk!), the bad fashion sense (fanny packs!), in addition to everything that’s going on in your own head — after a long year in the real world.
If you ever fought with your family on a trip or felt like you just needed the solace of your happy place to make it through another year of crap (in school, at work, whichever), you might relate to 14-year old Casey more than you think. Sure, her best friend has ditched her for the cooler crowd and her new high school is going to be full of strangers, but anyone being forced into the unknown and dealing with unexpected drama can understand just how insecure she feels.
Casey’s love for the parks, her semi-dissatisfaction with the creation of California Adventure, her level-headed respect for Walt, the way she paid attention to the sights and smells around the park; does that sounds familiar or what? She totally meets her match when she accidentally bumps into Bert waiting in line for a ride and sweetly and ecstatically asks him on a date. Bert loves the parks just as much as Casey does (he misses the Skyway too), and I loved watching them get to know each other.
Of course, this creates a little more drama for Casey because her parents don’t want their family time to be usurped by the new kid she might never see again. Casey feels differently. He gets her; she’s over her parents’ routine and wants to go off on her own! To feel like a grown up! It’s nice to see a genuinely nice guy hang out with a genuinely nice girl — talking, frolicking, geeking out, and just having a grand ol’ time. (Casey also says something awesome like: “I definitely didn’t want a fast pass kind of date” and I cracked up because it’s so true!)
Disneylanders so perfectly captures that other side of theme park vacationing: the part where you want to take it a little slower, where you just succumb to that feeling of fantasy and let yourself embrace that escape. There’s also that sad realization that you are getting older in a place meant for kids, and you are not so sure what that means. Will Disneyland always have a place for you? Or are you doomed to grow up and forget just how wonderful this place made you feel? (If you are reading this blog, I think you know the answer to this question.)
I loved experiencing Casey’s little triumphs and even her mistakes in Disneylanders. (And it’s not completely one-sided either; Bert is dealing with his problems too.) Abbott writes with such passion for her setting but doesn’t forget just how intense life can feel at 14. Easy enough to read in one sitting, I really didn’t want my time with Casey to end. (Sounds like me at the end of a Disney trip, huh?) Not only did I want to immediately jet off on vacation when I finished, but I felt pretty nostalgic about the family trip in general. It’s been a long time… and even though there were some serious downs, I do miss the bright side of that kind of touring.
If you are browsing for a quick read and don’t mind being inside the head of a 14-year old girl for almost 200 pages (think Cranium Command!), look no further than Disneylanders. It’s definitely a highlight in my Disney reading and I can’t recommend it enough for the kids and the grown ups.
Bonus: all the titles are Disney-centric + it’s fun to guess their origin!
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Thanks to Theme Park Press for providing my ePub copy of Disneylanders in exchange for an honest review.