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Thursday, August 24, 2023

Unique Amusement Park Setting + Engrossing Plot + Likable Characters = A Fun, Heartfelt Middle Grade Debut Novel

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When 12-year-old Lauren Suszek is abandoned by her mother in an amusement park, she's not sure what to do. It's clear her mom isn't coming back and Lauren sure as heck doesn't want to go into foster care. With no other alternative, she decides to hide in the park until she can come up with a better plan. "Borrowing" a uniform and a name tag designating her as "Mouse," she sets about imitating an employee, albeit one who secretly lives inside one of the rides in Ghost Town. 

Things are going along rather swimmingly until a nosy girl starts poking around. Not only does Cat seem to know exactly who "Mouse" really is, but she's obviously determined to rat her out to the authorities. Lauren refuses to be caught. She's become an expert at hiding in plain sight. Will her camouflaging skills be enough to keep her out of trouble now, when it matters most? Or will Cat be able to trap the wily Mouse once and for all?

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to live in a busy, magical amusement park? Maura Jortner has. Her debut novel,102 Days of Lying About Lauren, was inspired by a trip she took to Disney World in which she started imagining living inside the Haunted Mansion attraction. Although the park in the book is never named, it has all the sparkly enchantment of The Happiest Place on Earth. It's a fun setting for this heartfelt story. Lauren is a sympathetic heroine, but she's likable because she's hopeful, funny, and compassionate (even though dealing with other people's emotions triggers her own anxiety). She's also a giver, appointing herself as a park janitor so that she can give back to her adopted home, instead of just taking from it. Although I would have liked more details about how she survives on a day-to-day basis, there are enough there to make her situation believable. Ish. Would a 12-year-old (even one who looks like a 16-year-old) really be able to fly under the radar for so long without attracting any attention? Who knows, but it makes for a compelling story! Speaking of, there's plenty of action in the novel, which makes it a quick, exciting read. I buzzed through it in one evening. Lest you think there's no substance in 102 Days of Lying About Lauren, let me assure you that there's plenty. Both Lauren and her best park pal, Tanner, are dealing with grief and trauma that lead to anxiety, panic attacks, and sadness. They help each other cope. In the end, as part of the book's realistic but satisfying ending, trustworthy adults also step in to aid the kids.

Despite some heavy subject matter, 102 Days of Lying About Lauren is exciting, humorous, and buoyant. Because of its unique setting, likable characters, engrossing plot, and upbeat vibe, this is a book that young readers will love. I'm hardly its target audience, but I enjoyed the book immensely.

(Readalikes: Hm, I can't think of anything. You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for scary situations and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love: I bought a copy of 102 Days of Lying About Lauren with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger. Ha ha.


  1. This sounds super cute! The closest I can come to a readalike is the Kingdom Keepers series, though the main similarity between the two is the theme park setting. It sounds like the tone of the two books is very different.

  2. Sounds like a really fun premise for a middle grade book! Living in an amusement park? Totally fun.

  3. I agree with Helen and Nicole. This sounds adorable.

  4. My heart immediately broke for Lauren. What a situation! I know when I was younger, I loved books where kids hid away (The Mixed Up Files was a favorite of mine)

  5. What a unique storyline! I'm looking forward to reading this one. Seems it'd be good as a read-aloud story.

  6. I don't mind belief being stretched a bit if it works for the story. This does sound good and like it brings up some important issues that any kid might struggle with (especially the anxiety). I will look for this one.

  7. I've always been fascinated with behind the scenes of amusement parks. While I can't think of any similar titles that fit tonally with this one, I am reminded of Kiersten White's Hide and Gin Phillips's Fierce Kingdom. Both of those take a much darker approach to a similar setting.

  8. She hides out in an amusement park? I love it! That alone makes me want to read this one. :D

  9. A sad start, but it sounds like she made the best of it and had a fun life. I'm glad there was substance and fun mixed together. Nice review, Susan.


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