In the summer before her senior year, Elouise (Elle/Lou) Parker is working at an old but beloved amusement park called the Magic Castle in her small hometown. She’s not crazy about being assigned to walk around and dance in a hot dog costume near the food court, but she is nevertheless thrilled to be employed there and enjoys her coworkers and the public. She has a loving father, but her mother decided to take off years before for reasons unknown and hasn’t been seen since. She communicates occasionally via postcards but never indicates a return address or where she might be reached by phone. Lou has a very good and lifelong friend, Seeley, and is accepted into her family as an unofficial daughter.
The owner of the amusement park announces it will be closing down at the end of the summer. This devastates Lou in particular because of childhood and family memories tied up with it. She decides to investigate ways for the park to stay open, though she doesn’t meet with a lot of enthusiasm from others, whose general attitude can be summed up as, “Yes, it’s a shame and we’ll miss it and we’ve loved it but hey, time marches on.”
Lou is bisexual and has dated girls, but at the moment she has a big crush on Nick, a participant in the park’s diving show. Unfortunately, Nick is wrapped up in a relationship with Jessa, who plays the resident princess. In a deluded scheme to get to know Nick better and ultimately snag him, Lou pretends to be in a relationship with her best friend Seeley, who is exclusively lesbian and recovering from a bad breakup. That way she and Seeley can hang with Nick and Jessa without betraying Lou’s romantic interest. Seeley’s not in favor of the plan at all but eventually goes along with it because of Lou’s pleading. As readers would expect, the truth eventually comes out and difficult times ensue for all before the story comes to a close.
The author moves things along in an interesting, humorous, and generally light-hearted way. Characters are reasonably fleshed-out. Adults are treated sympathetically. Characters grow in understanding and learn important lessons about not getting stuck in the past, seeing positive possibilities in change, altering plans when needed, doing what they can to improve their own situations, looking below the surface of appearances, learning not to use others, etc. These “teachings” are handled lightly but effectively.
This book is essentially a queer romance, as indicated at the bottom of the inside cover flyleaf. At least three of the characters (more if you count the unseen ones referred to) are lesbian or bisexual. Same-sex relationships are looked on without any special comment. Lou does find it awkward finally coming out to her father, but he sees no problem (and already knew, as many parents seem to anyway). There is a lot of coarse language, including religious profanity. There are some sexual references but this is not a big issue.
If you’re looking for a novel that completely normalizes gender fluidity and sees no problem with coarse language and religious profanity, this is the book for you.
Categories: Bullying, Controversial YA Topics, Diversity, Dysfunctional Relationships, LGBTQIA, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Social Media