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Unlock a Great Book with Eight Keys

August 8, 2011

Written by Bobbie:

If you loved Suzanne LaFleur’s acclaimed debut novel Love, Aubrey, then you’ll love her equally poignant Eight Keys,  which debuts tomorrow, August 9th. Influenced by her experiences as an educator to middle-school aged children, Suzanne Lafleur set out to craft a story about a young girl, who, by unlocking a series of mysterious doors left to her by her deceased father, is able to ultimately unlock what is truly inside herself. She succeeded, and in so doing creates a really beautiful piece of literature that will inspire children and adults alike. 

It’s the beginning of middle school for Elise and it’s already shaping up to be a tough year. Her classes are much harder than she anticipated, she is assigned to share a locker with a mean girl named Amanda, who bullies her to no end, and her life-long relationship with best friend Franklin is starting to deteriorate when she begins to pin his “babyish” behavior as the reason for the bullying they face. Things aren’t much better at home. For the first time, she is forced to share the attention of her loving aunt and uncle with her cousin and her cousin’s new baby, who have just come to live with them. Needless to say,  Elise spends the weeks leading up to her twelfth birthday feeling confused, embarrassed and very alone.

Then, on her birthday, Elise discovers the first of eight keys left to her by father, whom died when she still very young. This, and the seven others that mysteriously present themselves to her in this book, as she soon finds out, unlock a series of tiny rooms in her uncle’s barn that each hold a letter from her father as well as something to teach her about the different components of her life and the people who’ve comprised it (including those who had to leave prematurely, like her mom and dad.) The technique allows for a sentimental, comforting and structured approach to developing each layer of Elise’s individual story.

Like Elise, I went through most of this book “with a lump in my throat.” But not all of the impeding tears (and those that did come out!) were sad. In fact, most were happy. What I enjoyed most about this book was the  development I saw in each character, even Elise’s father, who was essentially speaking to her from beyond the grave (Life has a mind of its own, he finally writes to her).  As I found myself emphasizing with and cheering for each character (who in their own ways, and by the hands of fate, were underdogs), I realized that this story was just as much about acceptance than it was about anything else. Accepting the family you have, the friends you’ve made, accepting the love from parent to child even after death has parted you, and most importantly accepting yourself; everything about yourself, including what makes you different, and what makes you special. And finding the strength and imagination to accept it at a time in life when, you may not like it, but it may just be most important (like middle school!). And if I remember middle school correctly (and I think I do), that last bit can really make or break many experiences you have afterwards. 

Reading this book was truly a magical experience. It’s gorgeous and the writing is spot-on for the age Lafleur is writing about (and writing for). But it isn’t just a book for kids. It’s not just an appealing and encouraging story for the sixth grader, who may be dealing with the same dilemmas and changes as the story’s main character. It’s for adults too, who, like Elise, need a little help remembering to live, love and learn to the fullest and that only then will you have the power to define who you truly are. 

What others are saying:

The UK Independent:

“Funny, moving and beautifully constructed, it’s like Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess rewritten by Judy Blume or Beverly Cleary.”

Books Inc., California:

Dealing with themes of loss, coming of age, bullies and self-realization, Eight Keys utilizes the same narrative style that made Love, Aubrey a critical sensation. Honestly and lovingly drawn characters will pull readers into the story; the timeless treatment of family will appeal to both kids and adults, making Eight Keys a beautiful book to share as a family.

Susan (Sales, Educational & Library):

I absolutely, positively, LOVED this book. Young Elise tackles so many relatable life-changing issues that your heart aches for her. Expertly crafted by author Suzanne LaFleur, this poignant, coming-of-age novel should be required reading for all middle-schoolers.

Dandy (Sales, Field):

I was a huge fan of Love Aubrey & excited to read Suzanne LaFleur’s latest book.  Suzanne creates another authentic voice in Elise as she enters 6th grade.  Readers get a sneak peek into some real life issues for kid’s this age- how to deal with a bully, figuring out friendships and realizing that your actions define who you are.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 8, 2011 11:48 am

    I adored Love, Aubrey. Must look into this!


  1. Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur (2011) « DogEar

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