Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Review: Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

Lock & Key
Picture source: Goodreads
Title: Lock and Key
Author: Sarah Dessen
Series: no, but Dessen's characters appear sneakily in her other books! ;)
Published: 2008 by Viking (Penguin Group)
Where I got the book from: the library

Synopsis from Goodreads

"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, 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?
I can say with complete confidence – Sarah Dessen is one of the most gifted writers in YA contemporary literature. Honestly, anyone could write a book, but very few succeed in capturing thousands of readers’ hearts with each novel they create. Dessen is surely one of these.

Lock and Key is like any of Sarah Dessen’s other books – a story of growth, relationships and struggling to overcome personal challenges. The main character, Ruby, has had a difficult childhood filled with abandonment, uncertainty and premature independence. Her father left when she was a small child and so did her sister some years later. Ruby’s mother is an alcoholic and the two don’t have a close relationship. One day, her mother disappears and Ruby is forced to deal with her past when her sister Cora and his husband Jamie adopt her to live in their house and start a life which is as different to her old one as it could possibly be.
Ruby’s life and her problems touched me deeply. The entire story could have been true, it was so believable, and it saddens me that some people really have to go through all those things. Ruby is afraid of allowing people come close to her and letting go of the secrets she has covered up all those years, and it was a heart-warming journey to see her barriers coming gradually down. I loved the contrast between her past and present, which are polar opposites – going from trying to handle everything herself with no consistent show of love from her mother to being surrounded by safe and caring people who want the best for her.

The characters – like always in Dessen’s books – were as real as they come, well-developed and so very lovable. If only I could meet them! Jamie is perhaps my favourite, with his genuine encouragement, loving nature and boundless enthusiasm for all kinds of things. Flustered, anxious Harriet is one of the sweetest characters ever, and Gervais is such an annoying nerd but quite nice anyway.

Dessen’s talent lies within the creation of relationships (friendship, family, romance) between characters. They are never hasty nor unplanned, but they build up slowly, with bumps and hitches on the way, to an honest connection, all the while described with amazing skill. Ruby and Cora, Ruby and Roscoe, Ruby and Nate, Ruby and Olivia… All the interactions are from every-day life told in a way that kept me hooked. The disintegration of relationships is also masterfully depicted, showing clearly why they didn’t work out. Dessen is an expert on communication and contact between individuals.

In brief, there is simply nothing I can nit-pick in Lock and Key because in my opinion it is a compelling read with beautiful character development and interaction. Dessen’s writing is thought-provoking, steady and focused with nothing unnecessary at all. I would thrust this in the hands of anyone looking for a contemporary novel that really has meaning.

5/5 A compelling read by the amazing Sarah Dessen!

Similar books: anything else of Sarah Dessen’s, How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr


  1. Sounds intriguing! I'll definitely put it on my summer reads list! :)

    1. Yay! Oh, and you should also check out Just Listen and The Truth About Forever by the same author, they're awesome too (maybe even my favourites by Dessen)!