June 16, 2023

102 Days of Lying About Lauren

By Maura Jortner
Review by
Almost every child has entertained the idea of living inside an amusement park, and Maura Jortner deftly juxtaposes the rollicking chaos of that reality with more serious subjects.
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The amusement park security guards that patrol the Haunted House of Horrors have yet to notice the ghost on the top floor. But it’s not a real ghost; it’s 12-year-old Mouse, who snuck into the attraction with nothing but the bag on her back and a “borrowed” uniform. For the past 102 days, she has been helping customers and sweeping the streets without being paid. She knows how to avoid being photographed by tourists’ cellphones and when to avoid managers who could clock her as a guest, and she even gets free daily meals of tacos and cinnamon bagels from the food vendor stands.

Not even her best friend, Tanner, knows the truth about Mouse’s living situation. Mama abandoned her here, and living at the amusement park is much better than dealing with strange social workers. Better to keep her head down and take care of the park, Mouse thinks, than to go out the front gates into the unknown.

But it only takes one day for Mouse’s carefully constructed house of cards to start tumbling. A girl named Cat calls out Mouse’s name—her real name—and claims to be her cousin. Mouse finds Tanner distraught after a huge fight with his CEO father. And a storm is coming to the park. Can Mouse keep her house standing, or is this a mess that not even she can clean up?

With the immersive, heart-pounding 102 Days of Lying About Lauren, debut author Maura Jortner honors the legacies of classics like Gertrude Chandler Warner’s The Boxcar Children and modern books like Catherine Newman’s One Mixed-Up Night. Almost every child who has visited an amusement park has entertained the idea of living inside of one, and Jortner deftly juxtaposes the rollicking chaos of that reality with more serious subjects such as familial disagreement and child abandonment.

Though there is no world where a child could live inside a Disney-esque park without being caught, Jortner does attempt to address the issues of security cameras, photos and money. But the focus of the book isn’t on the hard logistics of amusement park life; it’s on the dramatic, deeply emotional relationships between Mouse and the people in her life. Mouse struggles with the complicated feelings around her abandonment by Mama, swinging from anger to love to deep sadness, and she uses those feelings to connect with Tanner and his struggles with his family. By the time Cat—and a kind security guard—arrive to try and help Mouse, the internal emotional turbulence is at an all-time high, paralleled by the storm that crashes into the park. 

Though the required suspension of disbelief may be too much for some older readers, 102 Days of Lying About Lauren is a thrilling, fast-paced read that the younger middle grade set will love.

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102 Days of Lying About Lauren

102 Days of Lying About Lauren

By Maura Jortner
Neal Porter
ISBN 9780823453627

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