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 . .
This was a touching story about that challenging time when you start middle school and your friendships and family life is changing. The characters in this story felt very alive to me, including Elise’s aunt and uncle (instead of being absent or fading into the background as in many middle grade novels).
Elise wasn’t always kind to her best friend, but the story seemed a realistic portrayal of how Elise tried to find her place in the social sphere, and the problem of bullying and whether to talk about it to anyone or not. The mystery of the keys to the locked rooms in the barn was unique story element that kept me wanting to read more.
As a writer, I’d study this book more closely to see how author created a full picture of the main character’s life, showing both her time at home and her time at school. There were careful details about the setting that created a strong sense of place. I really admired how the way Suzanne LaFleur layered in deeper emotions and thoughts.
“I didn’t know how to explain how lately I had had more thoughts than ever before whirring through my head and sometimes when I stopped to think about them I lost track of time.”
“I thought all my questions would be answered, but instead I found a million more.”
“We have plenty of room for people...in our lives, I mean. Especially the ones who make us be the people we want to be.”
“A good friend is one of the hardest things to keep in this life. Don't forget that sometimes you have to work at it.”