Jonathan Friesen‘s fourth novel, Aldo’s Fantastical Movie Palace (you can watch the trailer below), begins like this: Fourteen-year-old Chloe Lundeen has a scar. It’s a big, ugly scar given to her by her father, Crazy Ray, while testing out one of his many failed inventions. Her scar is the source of all her pain, from the kids at school who taunt her and call her Scarface, to the father whose guilt is so great that he can no longer bring himself to even look at his daughter.
The only solace in the world for Chloe is her great-grandpa Aldo’s movie theater, which she helps her mother run. She describes the movie theater as being a real New York City art deco building plopped in the middle of rural Minnesota. Chloe’s only friends are her cat and her grandpa Salvador, who has no trouble looking at her at all.
One day a blind boy named Nick shows up to watch a movie at Aldo’s Movie Palace. He is Chloe’s age and the only ticket Chloe’s mother sold that day. While Chloe watches Nick watch but not see the movie, the kids’ mothers chat up a storm and decide their children should be friends. This is the beginning of their grudging friendship and subsequent partnership in the writing of a screenplay.
One day, while arguing in the theater’s screening room about the changes Chloe had made to his screenplay, Nick hurls the whole thing at Chloe. It misses her and lands on the reel she’s about to begin showing. The papers tear through the reel. While Chloe scrambles to splice the end back on and get the movie started, something very strange happens. The screenplay and the movie merge, foisting both Chloe and Nick into a world they only think they know based on the parts of it each has written.
What follows is a wild adventure along the lines of Dorothy in the Land of Oz: fears are acknowledged and faced; hidden truths are revealed; and Chloe learns what it feels like to be in her father’s shoes. She and Nick have the opportunity to forget their pain by having their memories wiped clean, though it’s not anything like The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where only the bad stuff gets removed. Each learns to accept their personal challenges and turn them into a source of strength.
With all that Chloe and Nick discover about themselves and their loved ones in this strange and often frightening world where nothing is as it appears, will they learn the one thing that both of them seek: the way home? You’ll have to read Aldo’s Fantastical Movie Palace to find out.
Jonathan Friesen is also the author of the young adult books The Last Martin and Jerk, California. Learn more about Friesen’s books at his website.