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Author: Suzanne LaFleur
Published By: Wendy Lamb Books (2011)
Synopsis: 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 barn…(Taken from Goodreads.)
Every time I read this book, I am reminded how beautiful of a story it is, how original, how sweet, how touching — then again, what book by Suzanne LaFleur isn’t?
Elise is such a real middle schooler. I know I’ve said this about LaFleur’s other characters, but that’s because it’s just so true. The author has such a talent for getting right in the mind of a young girl and exploring her deepest thoughts. I feel like I am Elise when I read this book. Elise isn’t perfect, she isn’t super loveable, but she’s real, and you love her for that.
I was reading reviews for this book and it seemed to me like one thing people don’t like about this book was that it seemed to them the message being sent was “Telling an adult about a bully doesn’t help.” However, I don’t see that message at all. When Elise tells her teacher, I can agree that her teacher doesn’t seem to care the first and second times; but when she tells her aunt and uncle, they do do something about it— they give her advice on how to handle it. Maybe some readers wanted Aunt Bessie and Uncle Hugh to go storm to the school and demand Elise be treated fairly. But in reality, maybe they wanted Elise to learn something from this, for her to have courage to stand up for herself. And that is a definite message that is sent.
Personally, I can not find anything I do not like about this book. Everything Elise endures—whether it’s good or bad—winds together and twists together to create one unforgettable story of mystery, friendships, and a few keys that happen to unlock secrets from the past.
Recommended to: All ages!