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Review: Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

L o c k  a n d  K e y
Author: Sarah Dessen (TwitterSite)
Release Date: 4/22/08 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Penguin USA
Age Group: Young Adult (16+)
Source: Library (School)
Go Buy It: AmazonBarnes&Noble
Overall Feelings: Moving, authentic, &heartwarming!
Summary: Goodreads

"[The girl] nodded at my neck. 'Your necklace. Do you sell those here?'
'Um,' I said, my hand reaching up to it, 'not really. But we do have some similar chains, and charms that you can--'
'I like the idea of the key, though,' the girl said, coming around the cart. 'It's different. And you can read it so many ways.'
'You want me to give her a key?' the guy asked.
'I want you to give her a possibility,' she told him, looking at my necklace again. 'And that's what a key represents. An open door, a chance. You know?'" (243)

So before Lock and Key I was completely unfamiliar with Sarah Dessen's work, oblivious to the existence of her novels. After reading this novel though, I don't think I'll ever pass up another of her novels, like ever. Lock and Key is a captivating, moving, heartfelt story of a girl trying to find her way after all the detrimental experiences she's had to endure and learn to move forward.

I have to say that I've never been a fan of novels that don't primarily focus on romance, love, and relationships, but while this aspect was secondary, it didn't take a way from the novel at all or made me want to cease reading it. Lock and Key primarily focuses on self-discovery and identity, the essence of family, and forgiveness, concepts that not only successfully held my attention but also managed to dazzle me and touch my heart in a few sensitive places.

Even though I have never gone through half of the crap Ruby went through, I still related to her somehow, which added to the book's appeal and value for me. That spectrum of feeling ranging from the loneliness and emptiness caught up inside her to the abandonment and loss she suffered through to her vivid fear to hope for a better beginning, a new and improved Ruby consistently moved me to tears throughout the novel. I didn't just feel bad for her, and I most certainly didn't pity her because she's strong, but I was heartbroken for her because no one should have to deal with all she's had to.
"Later, I'd develop my own system for dealing with my mom, learning to gauge her mood by the number of glasses or bottles already on the table when I came home...I took a few knocks as well...But it was always the singing that was the greatest indicator, the one thing that made me hesitate outside a door frame...As beautiful as her voice sounded...I knew there was potential ugliness underneath. By then, [my sister] was gone" (58).
Dessen created a wonderful, real, genuine cast of characters that I truly fell for. Cora, Ruby's sister, is one of those characters; the quiet, assessing type with a scarred but generous heart, always willing to help when aid is asked for, to be the caretaker of those in need, to be the friend that some are missing. She made a strong and effective guardian for Ruby...as did her husband Jamie, who's just the epitome of life, affection, energy, and sweetness. I couldn't help but love Jamie...he's so good, for lack of a better word, annoying and yet endearing in his optimism and caring personality.
"The next morning...when I came down for breakfast and walked right into Jamie's first wave. Four dozen roses in varying colors were arranged in vases all around the kitchen, each tied with a bow. Cora...was reading the card off of one of them...she looked kind of choked up as she tucked the card into her purse" (354).
And the thing is, never once did I find myself annoyed by Jamie. He wasn't perfect and not once while reading did I think that he oozed perfection; Jamie's just naturally that way, a loving person who just wants to make everyone happy... I also loved Harriet, Ruby's boss, is an obsessive control freak who never has time for anything but her business... she provided the novel with a ton of humor that I couldn't help but enjoy her. Another excellent addition to this novel was Ruby's new friend, the blunt, honest, and kind Olivia who told it like it was and made a great friend.
Ruby & Olivia:
"I blinked, surprised to see the girl with the braids from the parking lot who'd been running and talking on her cell phone. Up close, I could see she had deep green eyes, and her nose was pierced, a single diamond stud...'Hello?' she said. 'Do you speak?'" (67)
And while I did say that the romance in this novel was secondary compared to everything else, Ruby's relationship with Nate was crucial to her development. He was a "friend to [her] before [she] even knew what a friend was. Who picked [her] up, literally, over and over again, and never asked for anything in return..." (401). Even though Nate didn't have to endure what Ruby did, the sparkling parallelism between these two--having a tortured home life being one of the similarities--was unmistakable. However, unlike Ruby, he moves on and remains a happy guy, making him a person to treasure.

I don't think I ever realized how significant it is to have a support system, a family, that while we bicker and get angry with each other, still gets along and loves one another. I don't think I truly took the time to appreciate my family before reading Lock and Key, but after reading the diverse definitions of family Dessen incorporated in this novel, I began to think differently, which is huge, I might add, for an author's work to affect me personally. I mean after all, what is family, really?
"...Family isn't something that's supposed to be static or set. People marry in, divorce out. They're born, they die. It's always evolving, turning into something else. Even that picture of Jamie's family was only the true representation for that one day. By the next, something had probably changed..." (287)
So my true family was not just my mom, lost or found; my dad, gone from the start; and Cora, the only one who had really been there all along. It was Jamie, who took me in without question and gave me a future I once couldn't even imagine; Olivia, who did question, but also gave me answers; Harriet, who, like me, believed she needed no one and discovered otherwise. And then there was Nate" (401).
I loved every moment of Dessen's Lock and Key, couldn't get enough of it actually, and I'm sad that it finally came to a close. But what a magnificent ending it was! The ending was just a downright spectacular one, an ending that left hope for the future...

With this wonderful first taste of Sarah Desson's work, I'm pining for more, so I'm going to make certain that I keep up with her new releases and check out as many of her novels as I can get my hands on! Be sure to read Lock and Key when you can, especially if you're looking for a powerful, moving read...

Thanks for reading!


Miss Bookiverse said...

Look & Key was my first Sarah Dessen novel, too. I liked it but didn't love it like you did. I thought it was a bit too long in places and the ending was quite cheesy :P But I'm interested in reading her other novels as well :)