02 August 2011

Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur

At the beginning of this story Elise is eleven and still a child. An orphan, she lives with her aunt and uncle in the country and plays with the best friend, Franklin, inventing epic stories where they fight evil. But Elise is about to move up to her next school, and from the day she starts there things change. Her world has always been safe and secure, without doubt or thought for anything much more than what to do today - people have always been kind and Franklin has always been the perfect companion...

The steep learning-curve that Elise runs through is painful. Suddenly she's at sea with everything from her friend, to her enemy and her home. Bullied at school, failing academically and struggling with seeing the world from a more teenage perspective, she suddenly starts to find a series of keys; keys that fit doors on the upper floor of barn behind her house - a place she has always been forbidden to go.

Elise's struggles with friendships - and with finding out who she is becoming - are very real. Even though this book is quite slight it packs a real emotional punch as the reader learns, along with Elise, about her story and the love her parents had for her.

There is nothing here that makes it a teen book, but if I was going to choose an ideal recipient I'd pick a girl, about the same age as Elise. Though this isn't a handbook for growing up, it certainly shines a light on many of the predicaments any child on the cusp of maturity will encounter.

Simply written, beautifully told, Elise's story stays with you - I loved it and dearly wanted to know more (Amanda's story next, please!).

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