Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Eight Keys - Suzanne LaFleur Review and Interview

Eight Keys – Suzanne LaFleur

Pages: 216 (ARC)
Publisher: Puffin (Penguin Books)
Release Date: 10th August 2011

Other Titles by this Author: Love, Aubrey

Before I used it, the key had infinite possibilities.

Eleven-year-old Elise fells stuck. Her school locker-buddy squashes her lunch and laughs at her, every day. She doesn’t want to go to school – and her best friend Franklin just makes things worse.

Now I was ready for something to be different.
Anything, really.

One day Elise discovers an incredible secret. A secret that just might help her unlock her past, and take a chance on the future.

I decided that tomorrow I would see what that key opened up. It had my name on it, after all...

Suzanne LaFleur’s first novel, Love, Aubrey, iss touching, poignant and beautifully written, setting the bar for Eight Keys very, very high. But it hit it.

One of the main focuses of Eight Keys is the friendship between Elise and Franklin. I’ve always thought that such a fierce friendship between a boy and a girl at around age eleven/twelve is rather fragile and Suzanne LaFleur managed to get that across perfectly. They had had a wonderful summer together searching for toads, helping Uncle Hugh in his workshop and playing epic games of Knights. And then school started.

With the evidence of Elise and Franklin’s make believe games all over Elise’s legs, the trouble began. Popular girl Amanda began her tirade against Elise with constant name-calling and lunch-squashing. But, perhaps worst of all, her teasing caused Elise to question her friendship with Franklin and eventually pull away. After that, things snowballed for Elise: her grades took a nose dive, her attendance plummeted and her attitude spiked.

It took a chance finding of an old key for Elise to begin to get back on track. Both of Elise’s parents dies when she was little and so her dad left her eight locked rooms to help her grow up and get to know herself and her roots after they were gone. I thought it was an incredibly sweet and very touching thing to do. It reminded me a lot of Cecelia Ahern’s P.S. I Love You, but with keys instead of letters and for a much younger girl.

Suzanne LaFleur’s subtle take on friendship, death and bullying is affecting and uplifting and has left me looking forward to whatever she delivers next.

Q&A with Suzanne LaFleur

1. What inspires you to write for this particular age group?
I actually decided to write for this age group way back when I was a member of it...when I was nine I developed a passion for writing and thought there should be more books for people my age to read (and that grown-ups should be more respectful of them!) so I decided I wanted to write books for kids. I never changed my mind!
2. Do you draw on emotions that you remember from your own childhood?
Definitely. A lot of the troubles Elise has at middle school in
 Eight Keys are directly built around how I felt there, too: people were being needlessly mean, we were drowning in homework...
3. Do you feel that because you write for such an impressionable age, you need to tread more carefully in your writing than say a 13+ teen author?
Not really. The story comes forth naturally, and, because Elise the narrator is that age, most of the story is appropriate without extra effort on my part. I will admit that one thing I was aware of was a few instances in which the characters may have used "swear" words...I think many kids her age actually do use them sometimes (I've worked with kids and heard them myself!) but I kept them out of the book.
4. How do you manage to capture such a young mindset with such authenticity?
Mostly I just "listen." I trust my narrator and write what I "hear" her saying...I know that sounds nutty! I think a better way to explain it is that the voice of the narrator leads me rather than me trying to decide what needs to be written (that would give a very forced result). The character's voice brings with it the mindset of her age.
5. What three books would you take to a desert island?
Can I cheat and take three long
 stories? I would take Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, and A Series of Unfortunate Events. There will be no need to try to pick me up from the island, thanks!
6. How do you manage to balance the sadness and hope in your books so beautifully?
Again, I think this balance is something that happens itself is an intricate balance of happiness and sadness, so a good story will seek that balance as well. I actually never set out to write something sad (that is an utter accident), but hope is what takes you towards the end of a story and leaves you knowing that the story isn't really over even when the last page has been read.
7. What are you working on next - will it be a book for a similar age?
I am writing a book for the same age group but I always keep my new stories a secret until they're all done!

Thank you very much to Suzanne for answering my questions and Puffin for sending me a copy of Eight Keys to review.



  1. I haven't heard of Eight Keys before, but wow, it looks really good. I love the whole key idea- it does sound reminiscent of P.S. I Love You!- and the friendship between Elise and Franklin sounds interesting as well. Great review and interview!

  2. Ooh! Wow, I hadn't heard of Eight Keys before this week and now suddenly it seems to be everywhere. It sounds really good and I love books which touch on these subjects. I love the interview too :D

  3. I love the book, Love Aubrey, so I guess this is going to be even better. Very Excited

  4. I read this book and I LOVED it... it shows a lot of problems from middle schoolers point of veiw and it is so realistic... I love it how franklin and Elise can be best friends and nothing more... I wish I could have a guy best friend like that. He also respects her so that is AWESOME!!! :D

  5. I read this book and I LOVED it... it shows a lot of problems from middle schoolers point of veiw and it is so realistic... I love it how franklin and Elise can be best friends and nothing more... I wish I could have a guy best friend like that. He also respects her so that is AWESOME!!! :D


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