Every year millions of families visit a magical place Walt Disney World in Orlando. But do they ever stop to think about what life might be like for the people who make that magic happen, for the Snow Whites and Plutos who work there? That's the premise of Dream Factory, in which Cinderella and Prince Charming or at least the people who play them might not live happily ever after after all.

When Disney's regular costume characters go on strike, the company hires kids from around the country to fill in. The show must go on! Cinderella is played by Ella, a wistful girl whose family history haunts her, even in the happiest place on earth. Her Prince Charming is a Disney insider named Mark, who has royal good looks but fails to set Ella's world on fire. Also on the staff is Luke, whose Disney stint is a way to delay his future career in the family business, which seems planned out, down to his wing-tipped shoes. His future is ideal, but is it possible that Luke might want a future that's less than perfect on paper, but just right for him? Written in alternate chapters in Luke's and Ella's voices by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler, this behind-the-scenes novel is both a touching love story and a commentary on a culture that treasures fairy-tale endings, sometimes at the expense of real life. Dream Factory has plenty of funny, imaginative details about theme park trivia, insufferable guests and characters who go naked under their costumes, but it also has a serious message about creating an authentic life, far away from fairy land.

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