by Kate Abbott
Plot Summary:In Disneylanders, 14-year-old Casey Allison, on the brink of starting high school, struggles to find a new identity on her family's annual summer vacation, but with the help of an outgoing boy she meets while waiting in line, she discovers that Disneyland is the one place where her overprotective parents let her have the freedom to grow up. Casey looks forward to her family's annual summer vacation to Disneyland to escape her anxieties about starting high school. This summer, however, her vacation forces her to confront her parents' ancient attitudes, getting dumped by her best friend, an intense crush, and a pack of gum-snapping girls who seem intent on ruining her vacation.
Book Excerpt:My hands were shaking by the time the gates swung open for us to climb into the shiny seats, and I focused all my attention on getting in and stowing my bag away. My heart was pounding, and pulling down the harness was too tough for me to do successfully.
Bert, seeing me grasping at it, reached over me, and gently pulled it down over my head. He had been trying not to laugh, but finally failed as he caught my expression, then strapped himself in.
He was jiggling his harness when the train pulled away. It took off at a crawl and stopped over the water as annoyingly suspenseful music played in our ears. I shut my eyes and tried to focus on hearing only the waves lapping in the miniature ocean around us.
“Okay, now I’m nervous!” Bert said, rattling the harness that had already locked into place. “I can’t breathe!” He laughed a little, but it came out high-pitched, and a lot like he’d sounded a few minutes before when he was doing his impression of me.
I squinted at him. “Well, how do you think I’ve felt for the last half hour in line?” I was in the middle of a silent and quick prayer for our safety and my gumbo to stay inside me. When were we ever going to take off? They made us sit here, listening to the music, on top of the water and with the misters blowing at us.
“No, look what I did!” he said. I heard him sucking in air rapidly and laughing at the same time, so I peeked over the harness around my neck. He turned toward me, too, and I saw that his brown eyes weren’t so cool and relaxed now. Panic mixed with embarrassment — that was more like me, really, and I thought it looked pretty funny on Bert.
“What’s wrong?” Clearly he was strapped in, with no danger of falling out. He wasn’t wheezing — not like it was an asthma attack or anything. He was seriously freaked out, but seemed to think it was funny. Watching the calm and cool Bert so nervous made me a lot braver. I liked being so close to him, having an excuse to look at him close-up, although it would be more romantic if he were maybe looking back at me and not hyperventilating.
It was probably my obvious staring, but he suddenly looked straight into my eyes, and his clear, strong gaze made me radiate warmth from the center of my body. I was the only other person he’d ever share this exact moment with. How many girls would ever get to see Bert this totally uncool?
“I must have taken too-deep-of-a-breath or something…” he gasped, “before…” — he breathed in, and tugged on the handles — “it locked, and now it’s too-tight-and-I-can’t breathe!” A giant breath came out, and he laughed at the same time.
Okay, so maybe he wouldn’t want to remember this moment ever again — but I would. Who would have known that out of the two of us, he’d be the one gasping for no reason other than his own crazy excitement? I was actually the cool one, right now.
I bit my lip, but couldn’t stop my smile. “You’re fine.” I touched the cold, puffy padding around his neck, and overlapped my fingers with his, just a little. I couldn’t resist adding, “Maybe if you hadn’t been laughing at me while you locked your harness in — “ He squawked, so I said with more sympathy, “Look, all you have to do is stop gasping like that, sit up as straight as you can, and you’ll be okay.” He adjusted himself, complaining, but did stop thrashing around in his seat. His grip on the harness relaxed, and he looked at me with relief.
His eyes locked on mine. Now I was a little short of breath myself. I felt the tiny droplets of mist in the air around us, and breathed in his coconut sunscreen. I forgot about the ride and hoped we could stay here, exactly like this, when the speakers blasted on — “Get ready, screamers!” — and the countdown to launch sounded. For once, I didn’t close my eyes as we blasted off, although I did manage to make my head face forward, as all the warning signs told us to do. I stole a glance at Bert’s face as it transformed into total mouth-dropping thrill, as he raised his perfectly arched eyebrows and let out a “Whoo hoooooo!” while we careened into the distance.
For once I didn’t care as much what was going to come on the ride, as I did about who was sitting next to me right now. I peeked sideways at him through the first drops, which seemed endless, shrieking as my stomach seemed to fly up while we plummeted. I watched him as he started to mess with the harness during the slow, halting climb back up again mid-track.
“Oh, nothing much — only I can’t breathe again!” Bert clutched his hat between his knees, and his short hair was sticking straight up. He was trying to look directly under his chin at the harness, which made him look like a wild-haired, panicky turtle.
“You’re fine!” I yelled, as we made it over the peak and flew downward.
“You are not…going to let me…forget this…are you?” he said between the screams of the other riders.
“No waaaay!” I said, as we swung around a corner and flew over the water lapping at the edge of the boardwalk below. Bert’s eyes mirrored the sparkle of the boardwalk’s lights, the gold on his watch gleamed, and the glow beneath us illuminated his face. Far in the distance behind him, I could see the Matterhorn’s craggy top and the sleek peaks of Space Mountain, both a clean, bright white against the darkening sky.
It was all dazzling for a couple of seconds at 55 miles an hour. No, I’m definitely not going to let myself forget this, either, I vowed, as we careened up and down the last dips, grinning and screaming until our throats hurt.