Title: Lock & Key
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Viking – Penguin Group
Release Date: April 22, 2008
Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she’s been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow, knowing that her mother will probably never return.
That’s how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn’t seen in ten years, and Cora’s husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around. A luxurious house, fancy private school, a new wardrobe, the promise of college and a future; it’s a dream come true. So why is Ruby such a reluctant Cinderella, wary and defensive? And why is Nate, the genial boy next door with some secrets of his own, unable to accept the help that Ruby is just learning to give?
It’s been a while since I’ve read a Sarah Dessen book, but there is no doubt in my mind that she continues to be the Nicolas Sparks of young adult literature. Her novels are touching, but real in a way that few authors ever truly achieve, and Lock & Key is no exception.
This book is literally an emotional roller coaster. Empathy, pain, hope, happiness, comfort, and turmoil at every twist, turn, and loop that Dessen throws at the characters and the reader gives more and more incentive to keep reading. Even though it’s not my favorite of her books (I think The Truth About Forever and Along for the Ride will forever be tied for that title), this one was wonderful, too.
Ruby and her family are screwed up, to say the least. That being said, what family doesn’t have its dysfunctional moments? Which just makes it easier for a wider audience to relate to the characters; I think that there is a character in this book for everyone, and it is so easy to fall into the story, into the characters and emotion.
There are several points in the story where you will want to cry; I definitely teared up a few times. And despite being narrated in the first person, the level of depth into every character’s life – their hopes and dreams and their feelings as well – is incredible. The focus is on Ruby, but there is so much else going on, too. This multi-dimensionality is the best part about the book, I think.
My favorite character has to be Jamie. I’ll admit that at first, I wasn’t sure about him; I have this habit of being on the main character’s side, even if objectively I don’t agree with him or her, and Jamie was just a little too nice in the beginning. But once I got a little farther into the book, I loved him. He and Cora made the best freaking couple EVER and I think any other characterization of Ruby’s sister and her husband would have made the book fail miserably; they really pulled the whole thing together.
Nate, on the other hand, was kind of the reverse. I liked him until he pulled away from Ruby. Even though in the end, it helped her figure some things out, that really made me upset with him. The only other downside to this book was that the end went a little fast, especially when it came to him, but it made sense (even though I wanted more). And though he was slightly redeemed in my eyes, I liked his attitude much better in the beginning. However, I liked how Dessen wrote his relationship with his dad. There is something almost poetic in that in real life, sometimes people do things and have things done to them that you wouldn’t expect, even if you know the person. Sometimes especially if you know the person.
Her messages are always relevant, whether you are a kid, young adult, or fully grown-up person. They are also perfectly woven into the story, so you don’t feel as though you are reading the Bible but yet you take away something important from the book. Dessen will always remain a favorite of mine, and I hope to one day own her entire collected works. And if I ever have kids, I hope they’ll read them and love them as much as I do.
Clearly, I highly recommend this book and every other Sarah Dessen novel. I hope you enjoy them, too.
*Note: I do not recommend this book for readers under the age of thirteen due to some profane language and intensity of some of the plot.