Middle school is hard. There are more students and more expectations of what is cool and what is not. For Elise, the prospect of starting sixth grade is less frightening since she will have her best friend Franklin there as well. However, when she discovers that Franklin is considered a “baby” by the toughest kids in school, she finds herself wanting to pull away from him. This leaves her feeling alone and unsure of herself.

At home, Elise’s aunt and uncle have provided her a loving family since the death of her parents. When she finds a key with her name on it, she realizes she may be able to open one of the eight locked doors in the barn. As she makes her way through each door, she learns something about her parents, her choices in life and herself.

This is a wonderful story about a girl growing up and learning that it is important to surround yourself with people who love you and support you—and not to let others choose those people for you. Elise handles a bully at school with clumsy grace, renews her friendship with Franklin and makes new friends. The gift of locked rooms from her father allows her to explore a corner of her heart a little at a time, and the reader is as drawn into the discoveries as she is. Eight Keys is just right for any student entering middle school and looking for his or her own way.

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