Suzanne LaFleur

Eleven year-old Aubrey’s life has been turned upside down by a terrible event, and one day she finds herself living alone. After two weeks of surviving on crackers and cheese and tinned spaghetti, she is finally rescued by her grandmother who turns up at the house, worried from the lack of news. Suddenly, Aubrey has to leave her house in Virginia to move to Vermont with Gram. Aubrey is reticent to change at first, but with the aid of a loving grandmother, new friends and some heart-wrenching letter-writing, she begins to give life a chance again and starts looking towards a possible future.

This is a highly emotional story, which had me reduced to tears on several occasions. It deals with a rather difficult subject, bereavement, but it is not done in a sentimental or soppy way. In fact, it is because it feels so real that it is so sad. Her mother’s depression is also very wisely depicted I felt; again it is not sentimental but not matter-of-fact either. It was just right. Although I enjoyed the book, it lost me a little bit towards the end. I felt the family next door was lovely, but a bit too lovely to be realistic for example. But I did like that the end was not one that maybe most readers would expect. It made the story more believable, and human.
I am sure teenagers will enjoy this (my students have). My emotions while reading were fuelled by my feelings towards my own children: how would they feel in this situation, how would I survive if I was having to live through what Aubrey’s mum is living through? Our experiences as adults affect the way we approach such books. But I think this is one book that will affect everyone – the feeling of loss is universal.

This is a very thoughtful read. It has made it onto the shortlist of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and on the long list of the Carnegie Medal. We’ll have to wait and see whether it makes it to the shortlist.