Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

So my first author infatuation (other than the amazing JK Rowling*) came about some time last December when Caroline and I started discussing one Sarah Dessen’s books and I said I’d like to read it (more specifically This Lullaby**). Jessica, a friend and fellow book-lover jumped in the conversation and said “Oh! I have that book! You want to borrow it?” And, of course, I said yes. So I borrowed This Lullaby. Then, one random day during winter break, Jess walks into my room carrying about five books, three of which are Sarah Dessen books. She just sets them on my bed and says “Here are some more books.” So there’s where the infatuation began. It flooded into January, ran into February, flew into March, and ended up in April for the release of Sarah Dessen’s newest book Lock and Key. Admittedly, this is June, and I read the book over a month ago, but you should be happy this review came at all.

Ask twenty different people the definition of family, and you’ll get twenty different answers. Ruby’s definition of family is slightly askew, and when she’s assigned a project in a new school where she has to find the meaning of family, she discovers that it’s not just you relatives. It’s not just your siblings and parents.

“Ruby, where is your mother?”

Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she’s been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow. She knows that her mother has left, and that there’s no guarantee of her coming back. Ever. But she’s still living there on her own, fending for herself.

Until the landlords stop by and find her living in a mess of a house, with dishes piled in the sink, clothes hanging in the kitchen to dry, and drugs left on the living room table.

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. Going from dirt-poor, delivering lost luggage as a job, and living in a run down house to living in a rich and luxurious neighborhood, going to a new private school, not having to work at all when your brother-in-law gives you hundreds of dollars a week for spending money, and having a huge bedroom to yourself (with its own bathroom) is a major change. Especially for Ruby who has never been able to experience something like this. Even if it is a dream come true.

But after not having contact with her sister for ten years, it’s weird living with her again. And now she has a new neighbor, Nate, who may just have as many problems as Ruby does. But as soon as she learns to help him out, he’s not willing to accept it. Somehow, in this new world so far from the one she knows, Ruby makes new friends and understands the meaning of family.

After finishing this book, I sat down and thought about all the characters. Ruby is strong and defiant. Nate is kind, funny, and complicated. Jamie is hilarious and sweet. Cora is tough and caring. But each of these characters is real. Every single one of them has a past, a present, and a future. They have stories, emotions, and their own thoughts. I’m a character girl, and Sarah Dessen never fails to satisfy in that department.

Ruby’s story is both tough and wonderful. She goes through hardships before coming to live with Cora that many people couldn’t even imagine, and even once she gets there, to that world of luxury, she has difficult obstacles to face. She may just relapse and end up back in her old habit of drinking and drugs, she may just fall for the boy next door, or she may wind up going to college—something she never thought would happen. Her struggle is depicted very well as the story stretches over almost an entire school year.

This is yet another great book of Sarah Dessen’s. Not my favorite, but it comes in a close fourth. I give it 4.5 cups of delicious coffee.


* she may be amazing, but we still want Alan back!
** The best of the eight
*** It’s very weird, but it’s like Sarah Dessen knows me. She put a character in Lock and Key name Heather who is strangely like me. She likes coffee, she’s a good student, and she’s blonde. It’s very odd…hmm…

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