Rated Reads

Dream Factory

by Brad Barkley

Rated: Mild

by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler

There are expectations for any fluff book, especially one with a pink cover and a glass slipper on it. The measure of the book, in the end, is how well it lived up to those expectations.

The character actors at Walt Disney World — you know: the people who walk around shaking hands and posing for pictures — are on strike. Since Disney is Disney and cannot be shut down, they resort to hiring older teens, those just graduated from high school, or are in their early years of college, to fill those slots. No auditioning necessary: you get to be whichever costume fits you best.

Which is why, her name notwithstanding, Ella ends up as Cinderella. She spends her days in a ball gown, getting married like clockwork at 3, having her Prince Charming — who’s really not a bad guy, and a halfway decent kisser, even if there aren’t any sparks — chase her down. She has friends, but the one person she feels like she really connects with is Luke.

Luke has ended up being the less cool half (if there is such a thing) of Chip and Dale. He spends his days sweating in a fur animal costume, hiding from the life that waits for him back home. His girlfriend, Cassie, is everything he should want in a girl: smart, beautiful, fun. But he finds Ella fascinating, and interesting, and not just a little captivating.

So, since the question really isn’t will these two get together — because obviously, the nature of the book demands that they do — the whole point of the book is to enjoy how these two get together. And, while the alternating narrative chapters are fun, the rest of the story kind of falls flat. It almost seems as if the authors are trying to channel Maureen Johnson crossed with Sarah Dessen, but both of them do it much, much better. The book lacks the swoon-worthiness (yes, I just made up that word) and frivolity of MJ’s books; there just isn’t a whole lot of chemistry between Ella and Luke. There isn’t any tension, there isn’t any playfulness, and I swear if a character cut their eyes at another character one more time, I was going to scream.) Perhaps it is because, playing with issues of identity and reality, the authors are trying for the issue-heavy romances like Dessen’s: except she expertly balances the issues and the romance, never letting one outweigh the other, and creates something that is quite satisfying in the end.

It’s fluff and it is fun. It just isn’t everything that one expects out of a fluff book.

Rated: Mild for several instances of teenage drinking, but always mostly as background.

— Reviewed by Melissa Fox

Melissa Madsen Fox's blogging career began in 2004 when she started Book Nut. Reading, reviewing and book blogging have taken over what's left of her life after being a stay-at-home mom to four rambunctious daughters and wife to a slightly- absent-minded professor of political science.

One Response to Dream Factory

  1. Janey says:

    This is not a “fluff” book, but instead deals with very serious themes, such as finding one’s identity in life, learning to trust intuition over expectations, the way we pre-package dreams and hopes, the death of a friend, and so on. I’m sure you see your review as a good chance to display your own snarkiness, but perhaps you should learn how to read on a deeper level before you attempt to review books.

  • Dream Factory
  • by Brad Barkley
  • Rated: Mild
  • Genre: Young adult
  • Reviewer: