Listening for Lucca by Suzanne LaFleur

Listening for LuccaReading level: 6.4
Genre: Magical realism
ELL-Friendly: Yes
Library recommendation: Middle or high school

Goodreads summary:

“I’m obsessed with abandoned things.” Siena’s obsession began a year and a half ago, around the time her two-year-old brother Lucca stopped talking. Now Mom and Dad are moving the family from Brooklyn to Maine hoping that it will mean a  whole new start for Lucca and Siena. She soon realizes that their wonderful old house on the beach holds secrets. When Siena writes in her diary with an old pen she found in her closet, the pen writes its own story, of Sarah and Joshua, a brother and sister who lived in the same house during World War II. As the two stories unfold, amazing parallels begin to appear, and Siena senses that Sarah and Joshua’s story might contain the key to unlocking Lucca’s voice.

What book are you reading at the moment? If the answer is not Listening for Lucca, go find a copy right now! This is probably my favorite book I have read in a long time. I mean, I really, really loved it.

I struggled for a while to come up with the genre. Almost everything about the book is completely realistic. The unrealistic part is that the narrator Siena can see into the past as if it’s the present and can see through the eyes of a girl living in the WWII era. She tries to make sense of this oddity knowing that it’s not normal to see into the past. In that way, it’s magical realism, even supernatural (thanks Husband for helping me find the right words.) But I suppose if a classroom library doesn’t have a magical realism or supernatural section, the book could fall into the realistic fiction section.

Why did I like it so much, you may ask? It’s hard to explain, and I’ve asked myself the same question. Part of the answer lies in the superb narration of the audiobook read by Ariadne Meyers. I fell in love with Siena, with kindness, her shyness, her weirdness, her tenderness towards her brother and her friends… I appreciated how she embraces her odd qualities, much like I do.

I thought that the whole mystery of Sarah/Lucca not talking was beautifully connected. (I’m also a sucker for history/WWII in general, so there’s that…) While we don’t understand exactly HOW Sarah loses or regains her voice or WHY Lucca stops talking, there’s a beauty in the past connecting with the present and vice versa. Some goodreads reviewers are annoyed that some of the mysteries are left unsolved. I’m okay with that – it’s part of the realistic part of this genre. If the mysteries were explained fully, it might become too magical. It’s sort of how I feel about my all time favorite book The Little Prince. I don’t care if parts are a little weird or don’t make sense. In fact, I’ll get kind of mad if you try to point those parts out as flaws. To me, those parts make up the complete and utter beauty of the book, of human imagination, and literature at its finest.

Now, I’ll understand if many students don’t fall in love with Listening for Lucca. It’s a book for those soft-hearted readers who are ready to let Siena and her gifts into one’s heart. I might suggest it to readers who enjoy realistic fiction and/or history. It’s ELL friendly and geared towards middle readers due to the low reading level, but I think high schoolers might enjoy it too, since it seems to be directed at the reader who doesn’t need action or drama at every turn to stay interested.

Listening for Lucca is my fifth book of the 2014 TBR Pile Reading Challenge hosted by Bookish.

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