Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
After her mom vanished in a stench of drugs and alcohol, Ruby continued to live in the family house alone. Finally found out, the introspective teenager is sent to the luxurious home of her older sister, Cora, whom she hadn't seen in ten years. Everything there seems unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and supremely weird: her fancy new room; her lavish new wardrobe; the exclusive private school where she never quite fits in. Most mysterious of all is Nate, the friendly boy next door who seems to have a deep secret of his own. Another subtle character-driven teen novel by Sarah Dessen, the author of Just Listen and That Summer.
My Take: Sarah Dessen has an amazing talent for addressing difficult subject matter without making it worse than it already is and by not glossing over the complicated nature. In this book, the protagonist is Ruby, a girl who has been living with her alcoholic mother for the past 10 years and moving around a lot. One day she finds that her mom is gone for good and ends up with her sister, Cora, as her guardian. She struggles through the changes surrounding her move and redefinition of family. She meets the cute guy (always required in this type of book) and finds out all of his secrets, connects the symbolism, and has growing experiences.
I didn't love this book as much as I have loved other novels by Dessen. I didn't like the protagonist. That is not the fault of the author but the nature of Ruby. She is distant and rough around the edges. I also felt like the relationship between her and Nate (hot guy) was a stretch and felt forced for the story. They needed to be close enough for her to realize Nate's conflicts but I didn't see them together. I also liked the symbolism but also felt like it was not as smooth of a transition as it could have been.
Back to the positives, Dessen does not tell a simple, cheesy story. She adds secondary plots and develops and connects all the stories very well. The story also includes enough detail that I could see it becoming an ABC Monday Night Movie. Even though I was very disappointed in Ruby's actions when she found out the truth about her mother, I really liked the way Cora stepped in and reached her hand to Ruby and protected her as she had in the past. It was well described and had good transitions.
There were also some very enjoyable crossovers from another one of Dessen's book (The Thing About Forever) including interactions with my favorite people who stayed true to their characters from the other book. There were also similar themes in regards to herons, although I can't quite remember and connect what the herons represented. Also enjoyed the play on words and references to other literary work like Esther Prin (Hesther Prynne).
Not Dessen's best but then she has set herself up to a high standard.