Eeeeshk. Two months in, and I’ve already dropped the ball on this Sarah Dessen feature. It looks like I’ll be doubling up this month. Though at this point, that’s no hardship. I’m loving the stories she has to tell! Today I continue my year of Sarah Dessen with Lock & Key. I loved the first book I read by Sarah Dessen, Just Listen, so Lock & Key really had to blow me away in order to top or meet my expectations. While Lock & Key didn’t conjure quite the same magic as Just Listen did, it was very close.
Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: April 22nd, 2008
Angie’s Review – 4.5 Stars – A
A feel good ending seems to be a trend in Sarah Dessen’s books, and I hope that’s something that continues as I work through her back list. Lock and Key was another solid offering from the author, bringing so many emotions to the surface. I love idea that for Ruby, who’s had a tough time of it, there’s hope waiting just around the corner. It was always just Ruby and her mom trying to make ends meet, but when her mother disappears, Ruby decides to go it alone. When her landlords finally catch on to the fact that Ruby’s been abandoned, social services steps in and reunites her with Cora, the older sister she hasn’t seen in years. I absolutely loved the dynamic between Ruby and Cora, from the past, to the present, to what would come. It’s clear there’s apprehension on both sides, fostered unknowingly (to them) by their mother. It doesn’t help that Ruby already has a hard time trusting, and sliding into her new life and perceived expectations wasn’t easy.
There was a great cast of secondary characters in this book, but my favorite was Cora’s husband, Jamie. I love how he took to Ruby immediately, almost oblivious to how discomforted she felt and plopping her right into their home as if she’d always been there. He was a genuinely good guy, and I think he was a big reason why Cora and Ruby were able to find their way to being a family again. Ruby’s hot neighbor, Nate, was her opposite in every way. While she was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, Nate liked to see the positive in things. It never occurs to Ruby that Nate’s life might not be that great until she inadvertently overhears a conversation with his father. Ruby’s inner struggle with what to do about Nate and his father was the perfect addition to the story. She goes back and forth between doing what she thinks is right, and what she wishes would have been done when her plight had been discovered. And again, like in Just Listen, the heroine’s life didn’t revolve around this boy; he was just another facet of her life. Gervaise, the middle school genius, Olivia, the friend that sort of wasn’t, and Harriet and Reggie rounded out these colorful secondary characters, and they were fun to read about. They were all given a lot of depth without overwhelming the story, and I feel like they were a vehicle to the author showing us how in tune Ruby was to the people around her. Even with her own problems, she never missed a beat with those she (even begrudgingly) cared about. I loved the significance of the title, Lock and Key, and how it came to mean something different to Ruby as time went on. I also enjoyed the school project that was a backdrop of sorts to this story as Ruby tries to define what ‘family’ really is.
I listened to the audio version of this book, and I enjoyed it very much. The narrator had great intonation and really brought the characters to life. I did have to adjust the speed a bit, but that doesn’t bother me, as it’s something I usually have to do. Not everything was wrapped up in a pretty little package in this story, and I liked that, especially given the characters ages. Overall, I thought this was a wonderful story of finding yourself where you least expect it, and how sometimes it pays to give something a chance.
I think Sarah Dessen was a great choice to hold myself to my goal of adding more YA to my reading schedule. Below is a list of the books I hope to read from her this year. If there are any you think should be moved up the list, let me know. Like every reader, I’m always on a quest for the next great book!
1. Just Listen – March 2016
2. Lock and Key – April 2016
3. Saint Anything – May 2016
4. The Truth About Forever – June 2016
5. Dreamland – July 2016
6. Someone Like You – August 2016
7. This Lullaby – September 2016
8. Along for the Ride – October 2016
9. That Summer – November 2016
10. The Moon and More – December 2016
11. Keeping the Moon – January 2017
12. What Happened to Goodbye – February 2017
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