I realized after I finished EIGHT KEYS by Suzanne LaFleur that I've read a lot of sad middle grade books lately. This is a good one, but I can’t promise it won’t make you cry.
I first discovered Suzanne LaFleur’s writing in LOVE, AUBREY, another powerful book that should not be missed.
Like LOVE, AUBREY, EIGHT KEYS deals with belonging and loss and family.
Elise and Franklin have always been best friends. Elise has always lived in the big house with her loving Uncle and Aunt, because Elise's parents died when she was too young to remember them. There's always been a barn behind the house with eight locked doors on the second floor.
When Elise and Franklin start middle school, things feel all wrong. Bullying. Not fitting in. Franklin suddenly seems babyish. Then, soon after her 12th birthday, Elise receives a mysterious key left for her by her father. A key that unlocks one of the eight doors upstairs in the bar . . .
Even though this is a quieter, character-driven book, the elements of the eight keys were a really interesting hook. There’s a mystery about who’s giving them to Elise and what they mean that drives the narrative.
The way LaFleur dealt with bullying in this book was one of the most realistic portrayals I’ve seen. I hurt with Elise as I remembered my own middle school days. What Elise learns about bullying and how it changes her and how she treats the people in her life was very powerfully done.
I love how LaFleur gives such attention to detail—to the foods the family eats and how they interact. Every character is lovingly drawn, just as they are in LOVE, AUBREY. If you want to study character, LaFleur is a master.
Have you read any amazing middle grades lately?
For more Marvelous Middle Grade titles, please see Shannon Messenger's blog. She is the author of KEEPER OF LOST CITIES (MG) series and SKY FALL (YA).