There’s something you guys may not know about me. Ready for a secret KJ confession?
I love Disney.
Not like “oh, it makes me happy.”
Like wears a tiara or mouse ears in DisneyWorld, squeals when DVDs get released from the vault, and you can tell my mood by seeing whether my watch is Tinkerbell or the Evil Queen kind of love. If I could have a Disney room in my house, I would.
Clearly I was going to have some crazy high hopes for Disneylanders.
I was so right.
by Kate Abbott
Casey (short for Acacia, but don’t call her that) is spending a few summer days with her parents at Disneyland. Just like they do every summer.
Except this summer is different.
Casey’s best friend has dumped her. She starts high school in the fall, and she’s tired of following her parents’ rigid schedule and putting up with their embarrassing behavior.
She’s miserable. Even Disneyland can’t make her happy.
Then, standing in line for the Indiana Jones Adventure, she bumps into Bert. A year older. Tall. Brown eyes. Nice.
But Bert’s parents are mysteriously absent. And he wears an old, broken Mickey Mouse watch. Bert has secrets.
When Casey ditches her parents to run off with Bert, those secrets are revealed in the darkness of a Haunted Mansion Doom Buggy, aboard a rocket ship hurtling through Space Mountain, and in the cramped confines of a Matterhorn bobsled.
Is Bert really as cool as he seems?
Could he become Casey’s first…boyfriend?
To make matters worse, Casey must also fight off her parents’ attempts to ruin her relationship with Bert and fend off a pack of selfish, rowdy girls—the “Bra Strap Girls”—who seem intent on sabotaging her vacation and stealing Bert.
Casey can’t stay in Disneyland forever. When she leaves, with or without Bert, she’ll have left behind her childhood and learned some important lessons about what it means to grow up.
Muse Kristen’s Thoughts
If you haven’t been to a Disney resort, they’re the happiest place(s) on Earth. I’m not even kidding. Disney is where you go to have that brief refuge of no concerns, no worries, and simply joy every single moment.
For Casey, Disney is the magical place you go to where bliss is always possible, no matter what is happening in her life.
It would be better when I was in Disneyland. Everyone was happy in Disneyland. I just had to get there.
She can forget her problems with her ex-BFF, her shifting world (and body!), and forget that her parents aren’t as hip as they’d like to think they are. Until she can’t.
See, her family has forgotten one little thing: that she’s getting older. She’s still treated like a child…which could be why her BFF said sayonara and skipped out on the annual vacation. This Disney trip, Casey can’t shake her feelings she had outside the gates, and has to decide whether the magic still exists or if she’s bittersweetly too old for Disney joy any longer. If you haven’t gotten the hint, this isn’t just the fluffy novel someone might expect from the title. Disneylanders is a fun yet poignant story of a girl finding herself, coming to terms with her own coming of age story, and discovering how that affects how she views the world. Has she been looking at life with rose colored glasses before, only to have them smashed in the happiest place on earth?
Character wise, I found Casey to be very realistic and likable. Bert is without a single doubt adorable. He has his own mysteries to unravel, including what life he’s running away from at Disney. The two of them both come to terms with important life questions. Is life about taking risks or staying on the easy path of what you know? Despite being a tad older than Casey, I could remember times in my life when I was looking for that safety net – and not being sure if it was changing, or if I was changing. I think some of the thought paths that Casey traveled are relatable to all ages – after all, we’re all looking for our right path and our magic bliss.
I loved that the chapter titles had significant importance to both the chapter as way as Disney – and spent way too much time trying to guess what each was. Fun. So fun. I’d pay attention to chapter titles more if this was a more common trait in novels.
If you love Disney, I think you’ll love the book. If you love charming coming of age stories, I think you’ll love the book.
And hey Casey (because I talk to book characters now), I cry at the fireworks too. Every single time.
(Sorry, that’s WDW, because I’m partial. Shrug. I’m in charge here, people)
People don’t appreciate movies with dancing penguin waiters like they should.
I dared to look at Bert, and fell in crush with him harder than ever -…..
More than once. Not just because of the Disney references.
I immediately went to the Disney website to try to plot when I could visit Disneyland for the first time. (Being a former East Coaster, Disney World was my go-to.)
I will probably reread it within
three two months. (Have you seen my to read list? Rereads are rarely, if ever, allowed these days!)
I will have to get a pretty copy of this for my bookcase.
(Also: This is ranked as a MG – I’d personally consider it Upper MG/YA. The main character Casey is in between middle school and high school, which makes it slightly tricky I suppose.)
About Kate Abbott
Kate Abbott is a former video game guidebook writer and editor, literary journal fiction editor, and contributing editor for a Disney park-focused newsletter.
She received an MFA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside, Palm Desert.
Kate lives in Sacramento, California, with her husband, son, terrier, and tiny parrots.
I really loved this book, even much more than I anticipated. I’m calling it now – this will be a book that I reread over and over again. When I miss Disney. When I feel lost. When I want to watch someone else try to figure out life.
While we’re here *dons Minnie ears* , what’s your favorite Disney memory?