Up until a week ago, I believed that Disneylanders by Kate Abbott stood alone as an excellent example of YA set in a theme park. I am so happy that Disneylanders no longer has to hang out all by itself; I officially nominate Summer of Yesterday by Gaby Triana, a time travel YA story that brings a teenage girl back to 1982 and River Country, as its book best friend.
Just a quick disclaimer: Summer of Yesterday does not actually every step foot in Magic Kingdom or the (not yet open Epcot Center). There is talk of fireworks from Magic Kingdom, but the entire book takes place in River Country and the Fort Wilderness campgrounds. Whew! Glad to get that out there.
Anyway, ever since my first trip to Walt Disney World, I’ve had a thing for River Country. I remember watching a CD-ROM overview of the parks before I left (I know, CD-ROM!!) and I thought River Country sounded the coolest out of the 3 water parks. Maybe it’s because I had never been to a lake before? I have no idea. But we never went to a water park that trip, and, in fact, I still haven’t been to one. Obviously, my time to visit River Country is long gone.
One of the best things about the Disney online community is that they are constantly sharing info and new posts about places in Disney history like River Country. And then there are those crazies that broke in at night and took a lot of scary footage. (Maybe the main character in Summer of Yesterday can relate.) So basically the only way I’ve gotten to experience RC is through the efforts of this community and then there is this book that reeled me back into all those posts all over again.
It was pretty cool to hear all about River Country “back in the day” (the author has been going to Disney with her family since forever) but what I loved even more were the little details she mentioned that I had to Google immediately. (“Did this exist?? I need to know more!!”) Without ruining the entire novel for you, I thought I would share a few of those Google-worthy subjects today. I think they prove just how nicely Triana folded in Disney culture into this wacky summer story.
- Marshmallow Marsh: Haley’s dad mentions this early on in the book but we get a little bit more in depth later in the book. This doesn’t exist anymore but it was an evening activity for resort guests only, where they were rowed out to the marsh, roasted marshmallows (I would hope so!), and had a sing-a-long. (Find out more at Walt Dated World.)
- Fort Wilderness Train: “A train! There’s no train at Fort Wilderness!” When Haley says this to her new friend in the book, I found myself vigorously nodding. But what do I know about Fort Wilderness? Not enough, it seems. The trains rain for guests in the 70s, and the character in the book is quick to explain it’s only used by employees once a night. The book is set in 1982, remember? (Find out more at The World According to Jack.)
- Canoeing at Fort Wilderness: This sounds kind of silly, but I figured with River Country closed that they wouldn’t still offer this kind of attraction but they certainly do. According to some message boards, the trail is a bit different than it used to be but you can still jump into nature on a canoe over at FW. (This seems like a great way to get into the spirit of Summer of Yesterday!)
- The Wreck of the Walrus: This “landmark” brings us back to the roots of Discovery Island (another fascinating story in the history of Disney’s abandoned spaces) when it was called “Treasure Island.” The boat was a “shipwreck” attraction part of the island that housed many birds. (Find out more at the Final Day of Discovery Island.)
- Waterfall in Discovery Island: This one was harder to find out about. The tranquil spot is called “Minnie Falls” in the book and I couldn’t find anything about it under that particular name. But in this thread about waterfalls in the parks, Discovery Island IS included (scroll down down down). Maybe it just didn’t have a name? Do you know?
In addition to all the Disney references, there are a few actors, songs, movies, and fashion styles I was inspired to look up too. 🙂 So there’s a bunch of fun for everyone, really.
In a world where great YA fiction set in theme parks is scarce, Summer of Yesterday surpassed by expectations. (I teared up a little bit when I get to the end… I didn’t want to finish!) So even if I’m not taking a real trip to the World this summer, it was nice to take one through this book. (Cost effective too!)