A teenage girl with permanent facial scars and a blind boy enter an imaginary world through a combination of their own scriptwriting and a portal in an inherited old movie theater.
Fourteen-year-old Chloe Lundeen has additional, social scars from endless schoolyard taunts of “Scarface.” She’s living evidence of one of her inventor-father’s projects gone terribly wrong. Chloe finds solace in the family’s old-fashioned movie house and develops a love/hate relationship with a fellow sufferer named Nick Harris. The two eventually enter a magical world together, where their pain can be forgotten, but not without a price. Told in close third-person narration from Chloe’s point of view, this good-vs.-evil story moves from being fluent to disjointed and back again, several times. Accomplished author Friesen (The Last Martin, 2011, etc.) clearly has something to say to kids who have been emotionally or physically hurt by someone close to them. Yet he waxes didactic so often on the subjects of psychic pain, forgiveness and the inherent beauty that comes from overcoming adversity that readers may feel hit over the head with compassionate zeal. To make matters worse, the rules and characters of the fantasy world unfold in a sporadic way that feels more disorienting than helpful.
This poignant and well-meaning premise ends up a disappointing read. (Fantasy. 10-14)