Book Review: Aldo’s Fantastical Movie Palace by Jonathan Friesen

aldo's fantastical movie palace cover

View from the window seat:
Chloe was terribly scarred in an accident from one of her father’s inventions, straining their relationship to the point where he can’t look at her. She prefers the darkened projection room of her family’s movie theater, Aldo’s Movie Palace. She meets Nick in the theater, a blind boy who she soon discovers is writing a fantasy screenplay. Though he’s difficult to be around, they start working on the screenplay together. One day, while fighting in the projection room, they fall into the movie playing on the screen and from there fall into their fantasy world where everything isn’t as they wrote it. Chloe is soon swept up in a quest to save Retinya.

The strength in this book lies with the flawed characters. Chloe is deeply bitter about her scars and her father’s role in the accident, but through her journey in another world she finally embraces a stronger inner beauty. Nick is also bitter, but I felt his arc wasn’t as well-developed as Chloe’s. He’s actually absent for much of the novel and I don’t think he grew as much as Chloe did.

While the plot featured many fantasy tropes (child is given quest, child is aided and guided by extraordinary people/creatures, etc.), I definitely enjoyed the parts in Retinya the most. I loved all of the characters Chloe meets, who make mistakes but do their best to right the world that has fallen into darkness. I also loved the idea of the villain controlling people by offering them a way to erase their painful memories and thus lose their identities. I think the author does a good job of showing how our past pains make us who we are without hitting the reader over the head with it.

I appreciated Chloe’s ending and that her scars weren’t magically erased in Retinya. I also appreciated the fact that though she forgives her father and lets go of her anger, their relationship isn’t magically fixed.

Overall impression:
Aldo’s Fantastical Movie PalaceĀ is a thoroughly enjoyable (though predictable) read with flawed characters and an intriguing fantasy world.

Rating:
6

Note: I received this ARC from the publisher at the 2012 ALA Annual Conference.

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