The shelves abound with coming-of-age stories. Many are quite good.
"Eight Keys" will be one I recommend to our patrons. Suzanne LaFleur has
crafted a thoughtful, realistic, heart-tugging novel. It enables a reader to
explore the mystery of an evolving personality with all the good and bad
exposed to the world.
Elise (Cricket to her family) is approaching her 12th birthday. Her Uncle
Hugh and Aunt Bessie have raised her since her father's death from cancer.
Elise's mother died on the day Elise was born. She knows she is loved and
cared for by her understanding uncle and aunt. They are as perplexed as any
true parents with her sudden moodiness and silences. In some ways, they
handle the situations that occur with more patience and ingenious approaches
than many adults could muster.
Elise has shared adventures with her best friend, Franklin, since she was
a little girl, accepting his unusual habits and eccentric behavior as a part
of her life. Unfortunately, a game of knights they play in the woods the day
before she begins junior high school results in bloody injuries to her legs,
beginning a series of spiraling events. She now finds him embarrassing,
wanting to distance herself from his childish ways, all the while knowing
she could never have as loyal a friend as he is.
Anxious enough about attending a new school, changing classes and having
different teachers, Elise finds she has to share a locker with a girl who
takes an instant dislike to her. The locker mate, Amanda, smashes her lunch,
calls her names, ridicules her and even smashes her fingers in the locker
door. Even though Elise tries to tell a teacher, she fails to make the
teacher understand what is happening.
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Schoolwork becomes overwhelming, especially after she misses a
few classes, so Elise stops doing it. She finds school and Amanda's
bullying so distressing she repeatedly makes herself late for the
bus. As adults, her uncle and aunt realize she is only making
matters worse for herself, but since Elise has not shared all that
is happening, their efforts to help are met with minimal success.
However, Elise's puzzle-loving father had planned ahead for just
such a difficult time in his daughter's life. He left eight locked
rooms in the loft of Uncle Hugh's woodworking barn, with eight keys
for Elise to discover and unlock the messages of the rooms. She
discovers the first message in the last birthday letter her father
had written before his death, which sends her in search of the key
she had noticed in the barn a short while before her birthday.
As Elise discovers each of the eight keys that unlock the rooms,
she finds messages that send her on a different journey to exploring
who and what type of person she wants to become.
Why did she not question the rooms at an early age? Uncle Hugh
had told her they were off-limits to her as a child. But now she is
ready, poised on that threshold that everyone must cross into
adulthood. Now she needs the messages they contain. Now she is ready
to understand and solve the puzzle that is life.
"Eight Keys" will linger in your memory long after you finish
For this coming-of-age novel or others of similar theme, ask one
of the youth services people to help you locate one that is right
[Text from file received from Louella Moreland,
Lincoln Public Library District]
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