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Lock and Key ~ Sarah Dessen

July 15, 2009


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Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Publisher: Speak

422 pages

ISBN: 9780142414729

When the authorities find her, 17 year old Ruby is living in what can only be described as squalor. Her perpetually drunk and often abusive mother has long since run off, leaving her alone with rent to be paid but no running water. Ruby has made the most of the situation but is eventually yanked from darkness to live with her much older sister and brother-in-law, a lawyer and a wildly successful dot com owner, respectively.

She is suddenly thrown into a world where she has everything in stark contrast to where she had virtually nothing. Of course, emotionally, she is even more destitute in the land of endless shopping malls, SUVs and private school than she was living alone. She struggles to find her way in her new world, acquiring a friend and potential love interest in next door neighbor Nate. Of course, even within the walls of paradise there are shadows and demons. Ruby soon understands that even with everything at their fingertips, the people in her new life have their fair share of sadness, too.

This was my first true Young Adult novel. I found it a little bit difficult to separate my prejudices of the genre in favor of simply enjoying the book, perhaps because I knew that I would be reviewing the book in a format where other YA literature lovers would read it. That said, I enjoyed the it, for the most part. I am not sure that it, alone, will make YA literature my go-to reading material but I read it in about a day so it obviously held some draw.

I think  my biggest problem, although not an issue with the book itself, rather with my age, is that I found myself identifying with the adults who, with reason, were not as fleshed out as the younger characters. I was often more sympathetic to the parents, business owners, and teachers even though they were painted as the flighty or unreasonable authority. With due respect to Dessen, while there was more emphasis on the high schoolers, there was a considerable amount of emotion invested in each adult figure which is why the story held my attention. Discussion of substance abuse, fertility and financial ruin permeated the book both in snippets of adult conversation as well as in a more general, watered down view as it effected the younger players. There is a subplot to define family and while it  fades in and out and is hard to follow at points, there are definite poignant moments and I managed to break out my highlighter once or twice.

Over all, the book was a good toe-dip into the world of YA. I would, most likely, recommend it to my younger, female cousins or to my adult friends who enjoy YA, although, probably not to those who, generally, are not a fan of young adult fiction as this doesn’t really transcend the genre in any sort of philosophical way (as might be said of Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You or The Elegance of the Hedgehog).

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 15, 2009 4:20 pm

    I do enjoy YA, but have found some of the adult characters in YA books to be rather frustrating.

  2. July 16, 2009 5:18 am

    I do enjoy YA, but have found some of the adult characters in YA books to be rather frustrating.
    P.S. – Sorry, forgot to tell you great post!

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