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July 30, 2013

Today our colleague Bobbie joins us to share an early review of Listening for Lucca by Suzanne LaFleur, author of Love, Aubrey and Eight Keys. 

Listening for Lucca

I was already a fan of Suzanne LaFleur’s previous books, Love, Aubrey and Eight Keys, so I knew without question that her new middle grade novel, Listening For Lucca, was going to be the first book I was going to read from our fall 2013 list. And so I did. Back in November. And I remember it as clearly now as if I read it yesterday—the sign of a tremendous read. The writing was tender but funny, and as a young woman with the memories of adolescence nestled permanently in my brain, it brought back every fun, happy, nervous, helpless, anxiety-ridden, and exciting part of being twelve-years-old. Readers will eat up Siena’s experiences—moving to a new place, attempting to make new friends, trying to fit in, navigating through a friendship with a boy that she may just have stronger feelings for—with gusto, only to be delighted by the additional component of Sienna’s stumbling upon a bit of life-changing magic in her new house. My heart is aflutter just recounting all the exciting moments in this novel.

A little bit more about the book before I explain why it really stole my heart: Siena’s brother Lucca is two-years-old and has chosen a while before the story’s start to be mute. Sienna’s Mom and Dad decide to move the family from Brooklyn to Maine hoping that it will mean a  whole new start for Siena and Lucca. Siena soon realizes that their wonderful old house on the beach holds secrets. When she writes in her diary with an old pen she found in her closet, the pen writes its own story, of Sarah and Joshua, another brother and sister pair who lived in the same house during World War II. As the two stories unfold, amazing parallels begin to appear, and Siena senses that Sarah and Joshua’s story might contain the key to unlocking Lucca’s voice.

Sounds like a great plot, right? It is! In a cool setting, right?! You bet (I love Maine!) And anyone who’s read Suzanne’s other novels as I have will attest to the magnificence of her prose and storytelling ability. It’s exceptional here. But what kept me turning till the last page, had me holding my breath, laughing, sometimes crying….were the brother and sister relationships at the core of this story. Between Siena and Lucca. Between Sarah and Joshua. The book reminds us that these friendships, the bonds shared by siblings, are incredibly strong and when cared for, cannot easily be broken. Whether they’re tested in the face of war (as with Joshua’s absence from home as a soldier during WWII), or when fighting against a more commonplace struggle like that of growing up, time and time again we see sibling loyalty and love win out.

I was lucky enough to get to see my little brother, Jesse, a few days ago, when he came up to visit from Florida. My mother, father and I took him out to dinner in celebration of his having just graduated college a few weeks ago (I cannot believe it!). Sitting at dinner, watching him eat a—I’m conviced of it— two pound filet mijon, I recalled a time when he looked like a Gerber baby and insisted on only eating cheerios and mint chocolate chip ice cream.  Now he’s twenty-two and the only trace left of that baby face is his deep, green eyes and long beautiful lashes. The rest of him is all beard and smirk! I’m so very proud of the man he’s become: smart, kind, loyal to a fault and though he’s not much of a gabber (he belongs to that observant group of Scorpios that are careful with their words) I know there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him, nothing I wouldn’t do to keep him from finding his voice.

And I think this is why I loved this book so much. Because Siena had that moment too, when she comes to understand just how important Lucca is to her and how fierce her love is for him. Propelled by her older-sister instincts (and we learn a little bit of guilt too) she becomes determined to find a way to get him to start speaking again. These lines from the  book are my favorites. They are reason why I love the writing in the book so much and why I’d recommend this book to every brother or sister out there. Or every reader that knows and loves one:

“I[Siena] rubbed the back of his hand with my thumb, trying to keep him calm, to try to make him see that I understood.”

 “Maybe he was sick- but I felt the core of my being …think of him gently, the way a sister treats her brother when he needs help.”

What the critics are saying about LISTENING FOR LUCCA:

“LaFleur (Eight Keys) offers an enticing blend of history, mystery, and family, perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me.”— Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
“Tender and brave, Siena is a heroine to be admired… All is well in this lovely and magical tale.” — Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

You can find Listening for Lucca in your favorite bookstore or library on August 6th. Eight Keys and Love, Aubrey are both available now.

Eight Keys                      Love Aubrey

Many thanks to Bobbie for this lovely review, and thanks to all of you for joining us today at Random Acts of Reading!

Please share your thoughts in our comments section.


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