Review: Love, Aubrey - Suzanne LaFleur

Love, Aubrey

by Suzanne LaFleur

Ages 9+

244 pages

Wendy Lamb Books, June 2009

(spoilers)

Aubrey wakes to a world that has changed overnight -- again.  Her mother has run off, following the accidental death of Aubrey's father and little sister, leaving her alone in the house.  It's a haunting beginning to a story about healing and trust following a devastating experience.

Speaking as one who's recovered from major trauma, Suzanne LaFleur has hit the emotional and physical sensations right on the head.  Aubrey has persistent stomach pain and nausea when she remembers her family.  The way she deals with food is directly related to her inner peace, until at last she is able to accept the feeling of "food... heavy in my stomach" (p. 205) just as she is able to accept love from others, both Grandma and her friend Bridget.

The story steps carefully through Aubrey's healing and shows from the inside out how she begins to trust again.  Even greater than her pain is her need for a parent who loves her, and a family that belongs together.  It is remarkable how she manages to find both by the end of the book, but in different places and with different people.  There were several points at which the story could have been resolved, but LaFleur followed through and tied up all the loose ends, which made for an even more satisfying ending.

In other reviews, readers have named it as a teen novel, but I think it is very middle grade, even though the issues are heavy.  The things she is going through as an 11 year old girl will resonate with older readers, but there is nothing inappropriate about it for younger readers.  I can think of several fourth graders I'd recommend it to.  

Love, Aubrey is a first novel that does not read like a first novel.  I felt like I was reading a Patricia Reilly Giff -- familiar and expertly crafted, solidly paced, with characters that read like real people snipped right out of their lives and pasted onto the page.  Certain scenes, such as that in which Aubrey and her grandmother go roller skating, include every perfect detail to recreate the experience for the reader.  I am definitely looking forward to more from LaFleur.

Favorite quote: "Meatloaf is better left over."

Shortlisted for the Waterstone Children's Book Prize,

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