Dream Factory by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler

Genre:  Romance, Realistic fiction

Age Level:  14 and up

# of pages:  250

RAC Book:  Yes 

Luke and Ella are working at the Disney World theme park as characters while the real characters are on strike.  Ella plays Cinderella and Luke plays Dale of Chip and Dale.  They feel a connection to each other, but Ella starts dating her Prince Charming (Mark) and Luke starts dating his Chip (Cassie).  They are each spending the summer after their high school graduation grappling with some issues.  Ella tragically lost an older brother around Christmas and her parents completely checked out and moved to another country leaving her to cope alone.  Luke has a built in career with his father’s business, but he’s not sure it is what he’s meant to do.

Ella and Luke seem to be able to ask deep emotional questions that they are coping with and only the other is able to respond.  As Cassie sees Luke and Ella’s connection growing, she becomes territorial and defensive.  Mark, on the other hand, is a true Prince Charming and does not want to hinder Ella’s happiness for his own.  The true story is about Luke and Ella coming to terms with their as yet undecided futures and deciding where to go once the strike inevitably ends.

Although this book has many Disney facts and references, this book is much more than people who work as Disney characters.  Ella and Luke grapple with death (through two different incidents), ambition, goals, healing, choices, and happiness.  The two help each other learn how to move on in a way they can manage without feeling forced or unhappy.  Many teenagers or adults who are making major life decisions and/or are dealing with personal tragedies will find this book interesting and insightful. 

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