cover image Dream Factory

Dream Factory

Brad Barkley, Heather Hepler. Dutton Books, $16.99 (250pp) ISBN 978-0-525-47802-7

Fans of Barkley and Hepler's Scrambled Eggs at Midnight will find a similar slice-of-teen-romance in this novel, which gives a behind-the-scenes look at America's favorite amusement park. Ella and Luke meet at Disney World when both take temporary jobs as Disney characters after the permanent employees go on strike. Ella is cast as Cinderella-not because of her name but because she fits into the costume. (Luke plays the less prestigious part of Dale the chipmunk.) The two first become romantically linked with other ""characters"" before realizing they have more in common with each other than with their respective partners. Ella and Luke's alternating narratives express similar outlooks and states of uncertainty, yet the teens' backgrounds and conflicts are different. Ella is still reeling from the death of her brother and the recent departure of her parents, who have decided to go to Africa (""suddenly, the vague ideas about their doing something for others and making a difference in the world had details and a date""). For his part, Luke is dreading his future of entering the family business. If it takes a frustratingly long time for Ella and Luke to admit their mutual attraction, their individual musings and insightful conversations provide a thought-provoking prelude to their eventual pairing. A generous sprinkling of Disney trivia adds color to this wistful novel while an ongoing theme regarding the existence of magic adds an extra layer of meaning. Ages 12-up.