Eight Keys

( 123 )

Overview

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 ...
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Overview

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 bar . . .

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
LaFleur's second novel is a quiet and emotionally honest coming-of-age story chronicling Elise's journey into middle school. Elise has lived with her aunt and uncle since her parents' deaths many years earlier. Before he died, Elise's father made eight rooms on the second floor of the barn for Elise to open when the time was right. After Elise turns 12, keys to the rooms appear, one by one, and Elise gets to know her parents, her aunt and uncle, and herself from the things her father has left her. At school Elise is dealing with a bully, falling behind in homework, and being embarrassed by her lifelong friend Franklin, who doesn't understand why bringing Star Wars toys to school or playing pretend games aren't cool anymore. LaFleur (Love, Aubrey) writes with uncommon sensitivity to the fraught period between childhood and the teenage years, when friendships balance on a razor's edge and nothing feels certain. The heart of the story lies in the layered relationships and characters that give the novel its powerful sense of realism. Ages 9–12. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, June 6, 2011:
"LaFleur (Love, Aubrey) writes with uncommon sensitivity to the fraught period between childhood and the teenage years, when friendships balance on a razor's edge and nothing feels certain. The heart of the story lies in the layered relationships and characters that give the novel its powerful sense of realism."

From the Hardcover edition.

Children's Literature - Amy McMillan
Middle school is tough, but eleven-year-old Elise is having a particularly hard time adjusting. Her best friend Franklin is more different than she had ever realized and she finds herself the butt of many jokes as well as a target for her new locker partner who seems to have it in for her. On top of that she just cannot seem to get organized and get her work done, the teachers are not fair and well, neither is life. Her aunt and uncle, guardians since her parent's deaths, are patient and do what they can to help as does another aunt and baby cousin who have just come to live with them. But it is not until Lise finds a key left for her by her father that things begin to come clear (while all the more complicated!) Unlocking a mysterious room in the top floor of her barn she finds bits of the past she has never known as well as messages from her father about life and growing up. Eight keys, eight mysteries, will she get them all figured out? The story is lovely and simple and at turns poignant and heart felt. The dilemmas of childhood, friendship, and life in general are truthfully and realistically portrayed and the revelation is touching. Highly recommended! Reviewer: Amy McMillan
School Library Journal
Gr 5–7—Elise has just started middle school and has suddenly realized that playing the childhood games she once enjoyed with her best friend, Franklin, is making her the butt of her sixth-grade classmates' jokes. Her lunch is smashed daily by her locker buddy, she can't get to the bus on time, and she begins to take it all out on Franklin until she drives him away. In the midst of these problems, Elise discovers a series of rooms at home and eight subsequent keys that open them—a puzzle left behind for her from her father, who died when she was three. Her mother died when she was a baby, so she has been raised by her father's brother, Uncle Hugh, and Aunt Bessie. Each of the rooms is filled with mementos and a life lesson that her father wanted to impart, and it's up to Elise to figure out what it all means. While there are plenty of books about the pains of leaving childhood behind, this one stands out, particularly because of the way in which LaFleur portrays the subtleties of middle-school life. The character development is perfectly paced and readers grow right along with Elise. Her confusion about school, life, and friendships is honest and on target. The mysterious keys add a sense of wonder to the book, but ultimately the journey is about self-discovery. This is a heartwarming and thoughtful story filled with beautiful lines and ideas. It is sure to resonate with a wide range of readers and would be a great addition to any library.—Kerry Roeder, The Brearley School, New York City
Kirkus Reviews

Elise must unlock her past to learn what she comes from before she can decide who she wants to be.

Before starting middle school, Elise was content in her own world with Franklin. Now, playing with him has become a liability and opens her up to bullying. An orphan, Elise lives with her aunt and uncle, in whose barn are eight locked doors. On her 12th birthday, she learns her father left messages behind those doors for her. Readers know that Elise lost her mother the day she was born and her father three years later, making her convenient discovery one that stretches believability. The messages in each room read like cryptic, inspirational self-help: Know What You Come From; Believe; Treasure Your Life. Using first-person narration, LaFleur quickly sketches Elise's descent into depression and her growing ambivalence toward Franklin, but her characterization lacks depth. Thus, when Elise betrays Franklin and shuns a new baby in the house, she appears unsympathetic. Elise is too self-aware when she questions her new habit of calling Franklin names: "... did the name-calling come from a part of me that hadn't healed?" As readers might expect, Elise begins to make life better: She stands up to the bully, develops a new friendship and salvages the old one.

This story of preteen angst contains many compelling, original moments that, unfortunately, do not combine for a realistic portrayal of blossoming maturity.(Fiction. 10-14)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375872136
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 7/24/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 30,449
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

SUZANNE LAFLEUR received her MFA in writing for children from The New School. This is her second novel.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

1

Why My Life Really Stinks

The trouble all started right before the first day of sixth grade, the last time Franklin and I played Knights.

Knights works like this: we get our swords, we head out to the woods, and we go on chivalrous missions to battle ghost knights.

Uncle Hugh made our wooden swords when we were six, which is when we came up with the game. Franklin’s mom wasn’t happy about him making us weapons, but Uncle Hugh assured her that the worst that could happen was we would get splinters--and that’s only happened a couple times.

We never really battle each other.

Or at least, we never had before.

Franklin met me in the woods with his purple bicycle helmet on. Some days he wears his helmet when we play. It’s weird, but I don’t say anything about it. It’s not like it matters, anyway.

Franklin almost always begins the game. He did that day, too.

“Kneel before me,” he announced in his deepest voice. I knelt and bowed my head. “Your quest shall be to find the missing cast of King Alberto.”

“I think it’s a cask,” I interrupted in a regular voice, looking up. “With a k.”

“I’m not sure,” Franklin admitted, also in his regular voice. Then he whispered, as if it were a secret from the game, “What is that, anyway?”

“I don’t know.”

Franklin shrugged, put his serious face back on, and continued in his deep voice. “You are to find the missing cask‑t of King Alberto. Rise, Sir Knight, and go forth upon your quest.”

He tapped my shoulders lightly with his sword. I stood and knocked his sword with mine, which was his signal to go forth upon the same quest.

We took off, slowly at first, until Franklin yelled, “Ghost knight, behind you!” I stopped to battle the phantom who aimed to ruin our quest. Franklin let out another scream and ran past me to battle a few more ghosts.

My ghost killed by decapitation, I paused for a minute to watch Franklin. He looked funny, swinging his sword and yelling at things that weren’t really there. I had never thought about what we looked like playing. Was it a silly thing to do, really?

An abandoned cardboard box lay close by.

I summoned my deepest voice.

“Halt, human!” I yelled. “Halt!”

Franklin stopped, breathing hard. “Yes . . . Good Knight?”

“Good Lady,” I corrected in my deep voice.

“Huh?” he asked, in his regular voice.

“I am a lady knight,” I said.

“There are no lady knights,” he said.

“Of course there are. I am a lady ghost knight, possessing the body of the knight you thought you knew. And I have found your sacred casket, and it belongs to me.” I set my foot on the cardboard box like an explorer stepping off his ship onto new land. “You have no choice but to fight me.”

Franklin thought for only a second before falling back into the game.

“You shall never have our sacred casket, demon! And I shall free my fellow knight from your possession!”

He dove at me, sword outstretched, and I met his sword with my own. There was no neat clash of metal, just a dull thunk of wood smacking wood. We both hit hard. After a few strong hits, which sent Franklin darting backward, I turned and ran, scooping up the cardboard box--the cast or cask or casket or whatever-it-was now--looking back to swipe at Franklin every few feet. He was putting up a good fight. This was definitely one of the best games of Knights we had ever played.

But when you’re playing Knights in the woods, you have to be careful of these things all at once: where you swing your sword, that you don’t drop your treasure, and that you look where you’re going.

It’s not hard to guess which one I forgot.

We came to a stretch of the woods where the path ran above a steep hill. I twisted to take another hit at Franklin, but my front foot slipped, and I fell.

After the world had stopped tumbling, I heard “Elise, Elise, Elise, Elise!”--Franklin hurrying after me through all the rocks and leaves and vines and shrubs and prickers that lined the hill.

“Next time,” Franklin panted, when he’d caught up with me where I was lying curled up in a ball, “you should wear kneepads. Kneepads and shin guards.”

The front of my legs, from my knees to my ankles, ended up covered in bloody streaks. Aunt Bessie made me sit for her to clean all the cuts, but they dried in yucky scabs all over me for my first day at my new middle school. Aunt Bessie and Uncle Hugh both vetoed the long jeans I was wearing to hide my wounds.

“It’s too darn hot for that sort of silliness! You’ll pass out!” declared Uncle Hugh.

“The material will rub against those cuts and open them right up,” insisted Aunt Bessie.

I sat on the edge of the bathtub in my shorts with a box of Band-Aids--plain ones, thank goodness--and stuck them all over my legs. When I had a crisscross of at least twenty peach bandages over my tan legs, I realized that trying to hide the scabs was even worse that just letting them show. I rested my head on my knees and then let out a huge “Grrr!” of frustration.

“Elise! The bus will be coming.” Aunt Bessie peeked around the door. “Do you want us to walk you?”

“No,” I said. As I walked out the front door, some of the Band-Aids drooped off my legs, not sticking on one side. I grabbed one to yank it off, but the other side was tightly glued to the hairs on my leg. “Ow!” I yelled as it ripped off. I added “Bye!” before leaving Uncle Hugh and Aunt Bessie standing on the porch, looking kind of worried.

When I made it to the bus stop, the usual kids from our grade were there: Franklin plus Sam, Ben, Stewart, and -Diana. I had never really gotten to know the other boys, and what I knew about Diana was that she wore funny cat sweaters. Because it was hot, she was in a cat T‑shirt. Pink, with a black-and-white cat patched on in other materials.

“Hi,” she said.

“Hi,” I answered.

“I went to camp all summer and there was no electricity and no real toilets.”

“Sounds awesome,” I said, not sure if that was awesome. Talking with Diana always made me feel uncomfortable. She was so weird.

The older kids who had gone off to middle school before us were clumped together a few yards away, talking and laughing and ignoring us. No parents had come to the bus stop.

Once we got on the bus, it was totally like usual--just me and Franklin on our own, in our own seat, having our own conversation. That was how the whole school day always used to go. We didn’t really need to get to know the other kids because we had each other.

Franklin, of course, didn’t comment on my yucky legs. It was like he couldn’t see them, even though I couldn’t help but stare at them the whole time, thinking about how messed up they looked. He was suddenly Mr. School Facts, telling me all these things about what can go wrong at middle school. You could be placed in the wrong math class, be picked on by eighth graders, fail to conjugate verbs properly in language class (whatever that means). . . . Then he moved on to all these worries about our middle school, which has three different elementary schools feeding into it. There would be hundreds of kids there we didn’t know. And then he actually calculated how many that would be by taking the average number of kids per grade in our area’s elementary schools and multiplying that by the number of grades in the middle school and multiplying that by the number of feeder schools (minus ours, of course) and by the time he had gotten to the answer I was definitely Not Listening.

It didn’t matter how many new kids there were at school. It took only one to ruin my life.

When I sat down in homeroom, my backpack scraped against my legs.

“Crap,” I muttered, running my hand over my skin, getting blood on my fingers. I hoped no one had noticed and quickly wiped my hand on my shorts. The girl next to me made a disgusted face, rolled her eyes, and shifted away from me.

The teacher handed out sheets of paper with locker -assignments. There are so many middle schoolers at our school that sixth graders have to have partners--which is, apparently, totally okay according to the teachers, because sixth graders’ textbooks aren’t as thick as seventh and eighth graders’ books. So while I can look forward to one day having my own locker, I also get to look forward to having really humongous books and backaches from carrying them around.

The locker assignments seemed to be alphabetical, because across from my name, Elise Bertrand, was Amanda Betterman.

We were given twenty minutes to set up our lockers. In the hall, I followed the numbers until I found 2716, and who should show up at the same time but the girl who’d sat next to me in homeroom. I recognized her long, streaky brown hair, held off her forehead by two clips, and her tiny white skirt.

“Oh, gag. I have to share with the Bloody Queen of Scabs.” Several kids standing around her looked at my legs and laughed. Then Amanda said to me, very seriously, “Please don’t get blood on my things. I don’t want to get any weird diseases.”

“I don’t have any weird diseases.”

To make everything one hundred times better (not), who should show up but Sir Franklin, needing to stick up for me. “It’s no big deal, she just got hurt playing Knights.”

Which was not the right thing to say. At all.

“What’s Knights?”

“It’s a pretend game.”

Amanda smirked. “Playing pretend. That sounds really cool.”

But the way she said it meant the opposite: so not cool.

The other kids started laughing at me and Franklin. Kids we didn’t know but also a couple kids we’d known since kindergarten.

Apparently cool sixth graders don’t play. They definitely don’t play Knights. They have streaky hair and short skirts.

But there I was on the first day of school with scabby knees like a kindergartener, and my best friend got me pegged as a baby.

2

One Last Visit to Summer

The first day of school is always a Thursday or Friday. I like it because we get a little snatch of summer back over the weekend. This year’s Friday start meant I woke up on Saturday completely relieved to have two days off from school. I was in no hurry to go back there.

And it was like having summer back. I lay in bed until my door creaked open.

“Hi, Franklin,” I said.

The clock said it was nine, but it was still very dark in my room. Having a first-floor bedroom with the porch outside means that sunshine never bothers me in the morning.

“Hi.” Franklin came in and sat on my bed. “What do you want to do today?”

I thought for a minute, and Franklin let me think. He would never interrupt when I am thinking.

“I want to figure out the best things we did all summer, and then do them again.”

“Okay. Here, I’ll make a list.” He got a yellow notepad and pencil from my desk and sat back down on my bed. “I really liked the day we found frogs at the stream. We could do that again.”

“Okay.”

“Knights?”

“No Knights.”

“Why not?”

“I’m not better from the last time we played Knights,” I said, feeling the smooth sheets against my rough, scabby legs. And I wasn’t better from getting made fun of. This was the weekend; I wanted to push school way out of my mind, to forget that yesterday had ever happened.

“What else, then?” He tapped the pencil’s eraser on the paper.

“I liked helping Uncle Hugh finish the furniture.” Uncle Hugh is a craftsman. He makes things out of wood, like rocking chairs and tables and cabinets.

Franklin added it to the list.

“And I liked when Aunt Bessie let us make ice cream.”

“Lactose-free?” Franklin asked.

“Of course,” I said. A glimmer of excitement lit Franklin’s eyes. His mom limits his sugar at home, but we always have plenty for him at my house. Franklin can’t have any real dairy products because of his allergies, but Aunt Bessie’s pretty much a genius about getting around that. She really can make anything. She does catering out of our house, so we have a special up-to-code kitchen with stainless steel counter-tops and lots of fancy appliances.

“I liked looking at the slides on my microscope.” Franklin finished writing everything. “That’s probably enough for today . . . what do you want to do first?”

“Let me see if we can do the stuff with Uncle Hugh and Aunt Bessie today at all.” Aunt Bessie and I cook together on Saturdays if she doesn’t have a catering job, but if she did she’d be busy all day.

I climbed out of bed and decided that the tank top I’d slept in would do for the day, too, so I found my shorts on the floor and pulled them on. I didn’t mind getting dressed with Franklin around, especially since he was always certain to fix his eyes on a point on the wall and stare straight ahead. Which is sort of silly, because I know he still wears cartoon underwear. How can you be embarrassed around someone who knows about your cartoon underwear?

I picked a T‑shirt up off the floor and threw it at Franklin’s head to signal him that I was done and it was safe to move his eyes around the room again.

“All ready?” he asked.

“Yup.” I slid into some flip-flops as I headed to find Aunt Bessie.

Aunt Bessie was in her chef’s clothes, which are black even though chef’s clothes are usually white. She and I agree that black looks nicer, cleaner, and more slimming for her plump figure than white. She used to be a redhead; now that she’s in her fifties, her hair is dull orange and pepper gray, but she still wears it pulled back in the same long, thick braid. She was carrying trays to load into her catering van.

“When will you be back?” I asked.

“This afternoon.”

“Can we make end-of-the-summer ice cream?”

“I’ll set aside some fresh strawberries for it. Does that sound good?”

“Yum! I mean, yes!”

Aunt Bessie went to set the trays on the racks in the van. That’s a job that Franklin and I are not allowed to help with. She doesn’t consider us strong or steady enough. It would never be worth the time it might save in the event that a tray was dropped.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 123 )
Rating Distribution

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(103)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 123 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2012

    Maya

    This is amazing i am usually not a reader but when i read this book it took me in to a whole new different world. This book makes you want to make a movie in your head! This is a fantastic book and i willrecommed this book to anyone who is ready for mysteries and friendship:)

    47 out of 53 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 15, 2011

    highly recommended

    An insightful, delightful book about coping with those awful 'tween' years. Suzanne LaFleur made me fall in love with the characters, and personalities in this book. From begining to end, it was a great read for young and old. I can't wait to share this, and will look forward to the next.

    29 out of 35 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2012

    AWESOME!

    I really enjoyed this book and will read it again. The characters have strong personalties that make the book have a great moral.
    GET IT!!

    20 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2012

    Best!!!!!!

    Best story, and my younger sister didnt get confused! Read this.

    17 out of 31 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2012

    Eight Keys

    The book has 232 pages

    13 out of 33 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2012

    Eight keys

    This is a really good book. I am glad read this book.. I love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    12 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2012

    Wow

    It was really great. It was a real easy read for any one that likes a little bit of every thing mixed in

    11 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2012

    Really love it

    I thought it was depresing at first then it got interesting i could not put it down i tecomend this book to anyone

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2012

    Amazing

    When i first started reading this i never thought it would be any were close to as good as love aubrey was but i think it is just as good and is now one of my favorite books

    7 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2013

    Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur

    Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur is a great book about a girl named Elise and her best friends Franklin and Caroline. Elise is confused about life and has a hard time in school with teachers and a bully, Amanda. Elise's parents are both gone-- her mother died at birth and her father was taken by cancer-- so she has her aunt and uncle as her guardian. One day she finds a key with her name on it, and wonders if it goes to one of the locked doors in the barn. Elise has a wonderful time learning about friendship and love as she unlocks the biggest mystery of all--herself.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2011

    Cant wait to read

    This author is awsome and plz read this book!

    4 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2013

    Awesome book

    I love this book so much! It is great for people 9-12. Read this book.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2012

    WHAT???!!!???

    Why would you have a nook if you dont like to read?! That makes no sense!

    3 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2013

    Eight Keys

    You can learn so much from this book. I would read it again. It really teaches you a life lesson about bulling and growing up in life. Well i cant give anything away so i hope you get it!!!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2013

    Loved it

    This book was very interesting! I thought it was amazing! One of the best books ive ever read. Could not stop reading

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2013

    Good book

    I want a second book it was so good if your looking for a book for a frend i wold so recemend this book. I never wanted to put this book down. If i could pick the next movie based on a book i would pick this book. Defently one of the top five capter books i have read. I got this book as a birth day presents i have ever got. This book is a desent sized book if you hate books on love this book is a good book for you

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2013

    Eight keys

    I really like reading eight keys because its interesting to see what will happen next

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2013

    Books ROCK!!!!!!!!

    OK TO ALL YOU PEOPLE OUT THERE I READ THIS WHOLE BOOK AT MY SCHOOL AND I LOVED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!OMG I CANT BELIEVE HOW AWESOME IT IS!!!!!!!!!!!








    PLEASE GET IT
    AND READ
    IT!!!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2013

    To: Great book!

    F.Y.I. its about a girl not a boy! Duh! This book is really good, but i gave it four stars because it was not well detaled, and it was not well written. But its OK as far as books go. So try it! - ICE COLD;)

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2013

    Not what i thought it would be

    Ok so i got this book and not what i thought it would be. I thought it went to fast like one page your on one day then the next page your on another day. Who whrites two days in two pages i mean most books have like two chapters then the next day. It wasn"t well detalled too. But i did like the mystery in it. Eight Keys not the best book. But like ever book i review i give the book some nice reviewing. So read it. Try it. You may like.


    Godsgirl

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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