The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg
Welcome to the Kingdom… where “Happily Ever After” isn’t just a promise, but a rule.
Glimmering like a jewel behind its gateway, The Kingdom™ is an immersive fantasy theme park where guests soar on virtual dragons, castles loom like giants, and bioengineered species—formerly extinct—roam free.
Ana is one of seven Fantasists, beautiful “princesses” engineered to make dreams come true. When she meets park employee Owen, Ana begins to experience emotions beyond her programming including, for the first time… love.
But the fairytale becomes a nightmare when Ana is accused of murdering Owen, igniting the trial of the century. Through courtroom testimony, interviews, and Ana’s memories of Owen, emerges a tale of love, lies, and cruelty—and what it truly means to be human.
Ana is a bioengineered human, created to be a real Disney-like princess for The Kingdom. She is allowed certain privileges, but then begins to have thoughts and longings beyond her programming. But during a trial, lawyers will try to prove whether or not she is capable of murder.
The Kingdom is a Westworld version of Disneyland. People can visit for an escape into fantasy and see animals that might otherwise be extinct. The story is told from two separate points in time: the “present” as Ana and The Kingdom is on trial for murder and the past as Ana grows beyond her programming and even falls in love. I was captured from the start. The story is full of suspense, mystery, and drama. It’s inspired and beautifully written. I thoroughly enjoyed this surprising YA novel.