Love, Aubrey, by Suzanne LaFleur;
Wendy Lamb Books: New York, 2009;
Have you ever read a book that is, in every way, perfect? Have you ever read a book conveying a character so well that you feel as if you know them? That’s how I felt after that first delicious read of Love, Aubrey. Yes, my first time. But not my last.
I live with my mom, dad, and brother. I can’t count how many times I have rolled my eyes at my dad, stuck out my tongue at my brother, or given my mom the silent treatment. But after I read Love, Aubrey, I remembered how wonderful it feels when I see a movie, just me and my mom, or go out to a wacky cafe with my dad, or play baseball with my brother. Then I thought of people like Aubrey, whose seven-year-old sister and father died in a car accident, whose mother abandoned her, and who had to move to Vermont with her grandmother. I don’t mean to sound preachy, but I realized how lucky I am.
Imagine: you live a happy and normal life, your mom is always (or almost always) ready to play and have fun, your sister is as cute and nice as a seven-year-old sister could be and your dad has a good job that pays him well. This was Aubrey’s life. But while she is driving back from a vacation in a blinding downpour life throws a cruel curveball that kills both her sister and father. This brings me to the most complex point of all: kids are in many ways more adaptable than grown-ups. After this tragic accident, Aubrey’s mother—out of sheer grief—abandons her. So Aubrey moves to Vermont to live with her grandma.
In Vermont, Aubrey has to start more than a new school—she has to start a new life. During the summer and the beginning of the school year Aubrey’s thoughts are constantly clouded by sadness and confusion, especially for her sister, Savannah, who was very similar to the sister of the girl next door. It seems that the only people Aubrey can talk to are her pet fish and Savannah’s imaginary friend, Jilly. It’s like she’s isolated herself on an island that she doesn’t feel ready to leave. But gradually she makes friends with Bridget, the girl next door, gets closer to her grandmother and starts to open up to the school counselor.
In my life, I have attended three different schools. In first grade, when I spent a wonderful year in Germany with my family, I attended the Comenius School. I felt scared. I wondered what people would think of me. Would I make friends? Would anyone hate me? Would anyone like me? School is the majority of my social life, and it’s the same way for Aubrey. In school, there are other things to deal with besides sorrow—there’s homework, friends, crushes. While at school, Aubrey allows herself to flee from her island a little and begins to let the terrible things that have happened in her life fade into the past.
Meanwhile, people are frantically searching for Aubrey’s mom. After about three months of school, she is found.
Aubrey’s mother has always loved her. That’s not the problem. Death is a huge force that can do many things to people. I think the impact of the car crash and all the loved ones lost made Aubrey’s mother do this terrible thing despite her love and care for Aubrey. After her mother is found and spends months seeing a psychologist, she is finally ready to visit. This is a big deal for Aubrey. Think: your mother has abandoned you, apologized over and over through tears by phone, and now she’s coming to visit. I remember last year in my choir when we had auditioned for the first solo of the season. For weeks I had worried and wished and gotten sweaty hands from crossing my fingers, but when it finally came time for our conductor to announce who had gotten the solo, I was suddenly wishing that I had never come to choir. If you morph this into more serious terms, that’s how Aubrey felt. For months she has cried and prayed and desperately wanted her mom to come back, but when she finally does, Aubrey feels scared and confused.
Slowly, Aubrey and her mother adjust to each other and begin to spend more time together, making dinner, playing Monopoly, hugging, talking, and relaxing outside. Aubrey, her grandmother, and her mom have a fantastic time together. But it’s just a visit and, after Aubrey’s mom goes back to their old house to see her psychologist some more and to get a job, Aubrey settles back into her now normal life in Vermont. Then a decision is put in front of Aubrey. She has the choice of living with her mother or staying with her Gram. She finds herself very confused. Should she go back and live with her mom? Should she stay here with Gram, Bridget and her counselor? Decisions cloud up a lot of life, and I sometimes wish that somebody could just decide them for me. But then again, I tell myself every time I am faced with one, I need to make my own decisions without somebody else planning out my life for me. That’s what Gram tells Aubrey when she asks what she should do.
I’m not going to say that Love, Aubrey isn’t sad, because it is. Really sad! But I am going to say that you should never let the sadness stop you from reading this amazing book. Because once you begin reading about the life of Aubrey Priestly, you can never stop.