Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

Today, after cleaning my house, I curled up on the couch with my coveted ARC of Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen. Let’s just say- it’s a good thing I put dinner in the crockpot before I started, because once I began reading I was completely hooked. Ruby is my favorite Dessen character and this is perhaps her best work yet. I can not wait to pass it on to her fans in my class.

Ruby’s life has never been easy. Since her parents divorced when she was five, her mother’s life has slowly spiraled out of control. The only consistent part of Ruby’s life was her big sister, and protector, Cora. But when Cora turned 18, she left for college and never came back. “It’s just you and me, baby,” Ruby’s mom says. Day by day, Ruby becomes the adult in their relationship, making sure her mom has a job, a clean house, and her bills paid. But her mother uproots them constantly, moving to new houses and new schools, to outrun the creditors and bad landlords of their past. As abnormal as life is, Ruby settles in to the routine of it all. That is until one day, her mother is gone. At first, Ruby assumes she will be back when the money runs out or she wears out her welcome wherever she is. As the days and then weeks go by, Ruby realizes she is completely and totally on her own. She develops a plan to fly under the radar and make it to her 18th birthday, when she will legally be capable of caring for herself. Everything is going according to plan, until she is discovered by her landlords.

Before she realizes what is happening, she has been plucked out of her home, her school, and her comfort zone. Her sister has shown up for the first time in years, with a husband in tow, to claim Ruby and take her home. Suddenly, Ruby is living in a mansion, in a gated community, and attending Perkins Day. She has transferred from one of the largest and most overcrowded schools in the county to a prestigious prep school. A prep school to which her new brother-in-law has donated an entire athletic complex. A prep school where almost everyone comes from money and is money.

Life couldn’t be more different or uncomfortable for Ruby or her new “family”. Suddenly, she and Cora are forced to face their own past. And when Ruby meets Nate, her new neighbor, she must confront her own fears and insecurities. Which is more important- caring for yourself or for someone else?  What is the definition of family?  What is friendship?  Questions that once seemed so easy to answer are now seemingly impossible.

Sarah Dessen has done it again. Lock and Key is at once heartwarming and heartbreaking. The characters of Nate and Ruby are wonderfully drawn. Harriet is the stressed out, caffeine-addicted, independent woman we all know and love. Trust me, she’s somewhere in your life! The relationships between Ruby and Cora, Cora and Jamie, and Ruby and Jamie are realistic and complicated. The ending does not leave you wanting more- all the loose ends are tied up while still leaving the reader hopeful. And the symbolism of the lock and key? Absolute magic. (Viking is missing out if they don’t create some type of marketing based on the KeyChains! I am dying for one!)

Lock and Key will be released April 22, 2008.

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