I read Eight Keys last year and I absolutely loved it. It was my first foray into children’s literature for a little while and I adored the way Elise’s story was told — through discovering a key that leads to unlocking eight rooms in her family’s barn — and so I did not hesitate to read Suzanne LaFleur’s début novel, Love, Aubrey.
Love, Aubrey is a heartbreakingly realistic tale of an 11-year-old who suddenly loses her father and younger sister Savannah in a devastating car crash. Aubrey wakes up not long after the tragic accident and discovers that her mother is not at home, and it looks like she’s never coming back. Aubrey’s determined to survive on her own with TV, cheese and crackers, and her new pet fish Sammy, because if she faces the truth too quickly, she won’t be able to bear it.
Aubrey’s emotional transition throughout the novel is slow but noticeable. The story takes place over a few months and we watch as she tries to come to terms with the drastic changes in her life, and frequently has watery flashbacks of the way her family used to be. Suzanne LaFleur is unafraid to show that Aubrey is depressed. Aubrey isn’t sad, she isn’t unhappy, she’s going through something much deeper and traumatic. Suzanne LaFleur does this in a subtle yet purposeful way, which I think is hugely important as a child isn’t simply going to say ‘I’m depressed’. I also loved how the adults were supportive and not submissive. They recognised that Aubrey was not going to ‘snap out of it’. Instead, Aubrey deals with the situation in her own way as she writes letters to her sister’s best friend Jilly, and in ways suggested by those that care for her, such as her grandmother giving her ‘to do’ lists every day.
Love, Aubrey is an important reminder that children’s books aren’t just for children, a poignant story about grief and consoling. It’s not a book you ‘enjoy’, per se. Instead, you’ll become deeply invested in the well-being of this little girl, richly understanding every emotion and thought running through her head. Suzanne LaFleur has a talent for understand children’s experiences — and how they can be both very different, and very like, the experiences of adults — and I look forward to seeing who she endeavours to tell the story of next.
Thank you Puffin for providing this book for review!