Love, Aubrey

Love, Aubrey

4.7 199
by Suzanne LaFleur

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A beautifully written and deeply moving middle-grade novel with characters to cherish and a story that deals with tragedy and loss in a fresh way. Aubrey has suffered an unbelievable loss, and goes to live with her grandmother in Vermont in order to heal. There she makes new friends, learns to cope with what has happened, and begins to figure out how to move on.

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A beautifully written and deeply moving middle-grade novel with characters to cherish and a story that deals with tragedy and loss in a fresh way. Aubrey has suffered an unbelievable loss, and goes to live with her grandmother in Vermont in order to heal. There she makes new friends, learns to cope with what has happened, and begins to figure out how to move on. Readers will fall in love with Aubrey from page one, and hold their breath until the very end, when she has to make one of the biggest decisions of her life.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
LaFleur's moving debut offers a convincing first-person narration of a girl coping in the wake of tragedy. When 11-year-old Aubrey's mother drives away one morning, leaving her alone in their house, Aubrey resolutely takes care of herself for a week, buying canned food (and a pet fish) with birthday money and watching TV. After Aubrey's concerned grandmother arrives (Aubrey hasn't been answering the phone) and takes her home with her to Vermont, the devastating circumstances behind her mother's departure become clear: Aubrey's family has recently been in a car accident, in which both her father and little sister were killed. Aubrey grapples with her abandonment by displaying psychosomatic symptoms—she gets frequent bouts of nausea—and through symbolic gestures (she periodically composes letters to her sister's imaginary friend, which are interspersed throughout). With the support of a neighbor her age, her grandmother and a school counselor who encourages her to write letters to her family, Aubrey begins to accept her loss and to understand her mother's complex motivations for leaving. The relationships at the center of Aubrey's struggle—with her mother, grandmother and with herself—are fleshed out with honesty and sensitivity. Ages 9–14. (June)
Children's Literature - Jillian Hurst
After Aubrey's father and little sister are killed in a tragic car accident on a rainy day, Aubrey never imagined she would lose her mother as well. Unable to handle the heartbreak, Aubrey's mom takes off one day, leaving her to face the world alone. Gram comes down and sees that eleven-year-old Aubrey has been left alone, and she brings her back to Vermont while they try to find Aubrey's mom. The love that Gram freely gives to Aubrey becomes the only unconditional thing in her life. When Aubrey's mom turns up in Colorado, she makes it clear that, although she loves her daughter, she is not yet ready to return, not stable enough to take care of her daughter. Through creating new friendships, accepting the devotion of a caring grandmother, and writing letters to her sister's imaginary friend, Aubrey's broken heart begins to heal. The first-person narration allows the reader to experience the intense anxiety and heartbreak that Aubrey is going through, making it natural to feel protective and compassionate for this story's protagonist. LaFleur's debut is a beautiful, moving account of loss and abandonment, love and restoration. Reviewer: Jillian Hurst
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—How does a child recover from unspeakable loss? For Aubrey, 11, it takes time, love, stability, and the emotional release that comes from writing letters. After her father and younger sister die in a car accident, Aubrey's mother becomes psychologically unstable and abandons her. Uprooted from her home in Virginia, Aubrey goes to live with her grandmother in Vermont. Along with Gram's love, she finds solace in spending time with the family next door and acquires a best friend in the process. When her mother materializes and begins her emotional recovery, Aubrey must decide whether to return home or to remain with her grandmother. Throughout the grieving process, her emotions are palpable. LaFleur captures the way everyday occurrences can trigger a sudden flood of memories and overwhelming feelings of renewed loss. She details the physical responses of the human body to emotional trauma with an immediacy that puts readers inside Aubrey's pain and loss. The child's progress is reflected in her letters, which are at first directed to her sister's imaginary friend, then to her dead father and sister, and finally to the mother who hurt her so deeply. While the grandmother's patience and insight at times stretch credulity, for those who want or need to experience grief vicariously, this is an excellent choice.—Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL
Kirkus Reviews
In this touching debut novel, a devastating accident leaves an 11-year-old girl grieving and alone until her grandmother and some new friends provide comfort and support. When Aubrey's father and sister are killed in an automobile accident, her shattered mother disappears, leaving her alone in their Virginia home. In denial, Aubrey tells no one, pretends everything is fine and lives on Cheerios, SpaghettiOs, crackers and cheese. Eventually her grandmother takes her to Vermont, where Aubrey remains withdrawn and unable to discuss her loss except in letters she never mails. With the support of her grandmother, her new best friend and the school counselor, Aubrey's life gradually starts to seem slightly normal-until her mother appears, forcing her to face difficult new issues. Speaking in the first-person past tense, an initially detached Aubrey tells the story from her wobbly perspective, dropping hints about the accident and her mother's abandonment until the pieces fit together. Her detailed progression from denial to acceptance makes her both brave and credible in this honest and realistic portrayal of grief. (Fiction. 9-14)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Booklist, August 1, 2009:
"LeFleur proves she is an author to watch in this debut novel."

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)
HL570L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

It was fun at first, playing house.

I made all my own meals. Crackers and cheese, three times a day.

I watched whatever I wanted on TV, all day.

It'd been a good three days: crackers and cheese for breakfast, TV; crackers and cheese for lunch, TV; crackers and cheese for dinner, TV, bed. Nothing to think about but TV and cheese. A perfect world.

Then I ran out of cheese.

There wasn't anything left in the freezer. The veggie drawer in the fridge had drippy brown lettuce and stinky carrots. A container of milk sat on the shelf. I opened it. It smelled awful, too, so I put the cap back on and shoved it to the back of the fridge.

I checked my room for snacks. I peeked at the lower shelf of my nightstand, where I had set a plate with two chocolate-covered cookies for Jilly, the way Savannah always did. Jilly's cookies used to disappear, but I couldn't seem to get her to come around anymore. Savannah probably ate the cookies herself. I picked one up and bit it, but it was hard stale.

I had to go shopping. I needed a break from TV anyway. I got some money from my sock drawer, taking just two of the twenty-dollar bills left over from my birthday. It was so long ago, my birthday. On the day I turned eleven, I didn't think I would be using the money in Gram's card to buy my own groceries.

Everything was different now.

I didn't want anyone at the store to notice me, so I put on a hat and sunglasses, like a movie star walking around a city.

I put my backpack on and set out for the grocery store. It was nice to be outside for a change. The summer air felt really hot, though, and soon there was sweat under my hat and running down my face behind the glasses. The disguise wasn't as glamorous as it had seemed.

I was excited to pick out anything I wanted at the store. I went to the aisle with the SpaghettiOs and lifted my sunglasses to examine the cans. I wanted the ones with meatballs. Savannah likes the plain ones. No, she liked—Savannah had liked the plain ones–

I suddenly felt very sick, there in the canned-goods aisle.

But I needed food. I put five cans of SpaghettiOs with meatballs into my buggy.
Because I wanted to run a healthy household, I figured I needed some vegetables. I got two cans of corn and one of green beans. I picked out a box of Cheerios and a half gallon of milk, a loaf of bread and sliced-turkey-and-ham packages, and a bag of apples. I realized my backpack would feel heavy and figured that that was enough to eat, for a few days anyway.

I paid and made it out of the store without anyone recognizing me. I stopped at a bench and zipped the paper grocery bag into my backpack. I adjusted my hat and sunglasses and started to walk home, but that was when I noticed the pet store next to the grocery.

I wasn't on a schedule or anything. I had time to go inside.

A bell jingled on the door as I opened it. The store had a heavy smell of animals and the sounds of many noisy birds chirping.

There were three puppies in glass cages. I pressed my hand to one of the windows and the baby dog jumped against it.

That would be fun, to have a dog.

I took the wad of leftover money out of my pocket and looked at it. The puppies cost hundreds of dollars each. Even the rest of the money in my birthday card wouldn't have been enough.

In the back of the store were tanks of fish. In front of the tanks were rows of individual little bowls, each with one colorful fish inside. The sign said betta fish $3.99.

On the very end of the row of bowls was a blue fish with purple-edged fins. He was looking right at me and waving one of his fins.

I wiggled my finger back at him, and looked at the money in my hand again.
I carefully carried the bowl to the counter. The lady there saw me coming and slapped a container of food down.

"It's two dollars extra," she said.

"That's fine, ma'am." I watched as she moved my fish into a plastic bag, tied it, and handed it to me.

"What's his name?" she asked.

"Sammy," I said.

I held his bag carefully in my hand the whole way home.

I had everything I needed to run a household: a house, food, and a new family. From now on it would just be me, Aubrey, and Sammy—the two of us, and no one else.

We'd had a fish before, a goldfish. I found her old bowl with blue pebbles under the kitchen sink. I hummed as I rinsed the pebbles without soap to keep Sammy's water suds-free. I made the water a little warm and dumped Sammy into it with his old water. I set him on my dresser.

"Welcome home," I told him.

Footsteps sounded on the porch. I froze and listened. Mail pushed through the slot. The metal flap slammed shut and I jumped. I caught my breath and tiptoed to the door to look at the mail. It was starting to pile up. I hadn't touched it in four days. A lot of it was still addressed to Gordon Priestly. Dad. A kids' magazine came for Savannah. Highlights. I gave the mail a good kick and went back to the kitchen to make a sandwich.

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