Genres: Children’s fiction, contemporary.
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.
Spoiler note: This review does not contain spoilers.
Eight Keys is a truly beautiful book. I adore everything about the cover, that it’s a hardback without being too big to carry around, and, of course, the story. Eight Keys is an emotional, moving children’s book about a 12-year-old girl’s realistic experience of life.
The main themes in this book are love, family, friendship, and bullying. Elise, our main character, is far from perfect but the reader cannot help but empathise and encourage her throughout her character development. Eight Keys explores many of the thoughts, feelings, insecurities and experiences that children go through in school, especially during that awkward stage between being a child and a teenager.
A really interesting aspect of the story is what the book’s title is derived from. Elise has lived with her aunt and uncle most of her life as her mother died giving birth and her father died of cancer shortly after. After Elise’s 12th birthday, she discovers a key that unlocks one of the 8 rooms in her aunt and uncle’s barn. She eventually unlocks each of the rooms that her father created especially for her. This was my favourite part of Eight Keys and it’s also an extremely emotional part of the story. It was heartbreaking reading Elise say to herself that her existence wasn’t worth her mother dying for.
As for the bullying, it’s something we’ve most likely all been through and I thought it was a realistic portrayal. Children often keep it to themselves if they’re being bullied and Eight Keys recognises this, and the dilemma, whilst encouraging children to open up.
I loved Eight Keys and I would most likely have loved it even more as a child (its target readership is children aged 9+). I’m looking forward to reading Suzanne LaFleur’s debut novel Love, Aubrey.
Thank you Puffin Books for sending me this book to review!