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Lock and Key
by Sarah Dessen

Overview - "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.  Read more...


 
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More About Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
 
 
 
Overview
"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?

Best-selling author Sarah Dessen explores the heart of a gutsy, complex girl dealing with unforeseen circumstances and learning to trust again.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780670010882
  • ISBN-10: 067001088X
  • Publisher: Viking Children's Books
  • Publish Date: May 2008
  • Page Count: 422
  • Reading Level: Ages 12-UP


Related Categories

Books > Juvenile Fiction > Social Issues - General
Books > Juvenile Fiction > Family - General

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 155.
  • Review Date: 2008-02-18
  • Reviewer: Staff

Dessen (Just Listen; see Profile) inverts a familiar fairy tale: What if Cinderella got the prince, the castle and all its accoutrements, but wasn't remotely interested? After her mother abandons her, Ruby Cooper is flying below the radar of officialdom and trying to make it to her 18th birthday, when she's busted by the landlord and turned over to social services. Ruby is taken in by her estranged sister, Cora, who left for college a decade earlier and never looked back, and Cora's husband, Jamie, the wealthy founder of a popular social networking site. Resentful, suspicious and vulnerable, Ruby resists mightily, refusing the risky business of depending on anybody but herself, and wearing the key to her old house around her neck. All the Dessen trademarks are here—the swoon-worthy boy next door who is not what he appears to be, and the supporting characters who force Ruby to rethink her cynical worldview, among them the frazzled owner of a jewelry kiosk at the mall. The author again defines characters primarily through dialogue, and although Ruby and her love interest, Nate, sound wiser than their years, they talk the way teens might want to—from the heart. A must for Dessen fans, this will win her new readers, too. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)

 
BookPage Reviews

Unlocking the definition of family

Sarah Dessen is a master of writing about relationships. And by "relationships," I don't just mean the girl-meets-boy fodder of so many other young adult novels. In previous books, Dessen has thoughtfully and probingly explored the intricacies of relationships between mothers and daughters, co-workers and many kinds of friends.

In Lock and Key, Dessen's eighth novel, the relationship under the microscope is that of family. Seventeen-year-old Ruby's family, though, is anything but ordinary, as she is painfully reminded every time she picks up her semester-long project, an oral history definition of the word "family."

For almost as long as she can remember, "family" has meant Ruby and her drifting, unstable, alcoholic mother. Ruby barely remembers the father who left when she was five. She has even managed to mostly forget her sister Cora, who cut all ties with Ruby and their mother when she left for college.

When Ruby's mother flies the coop for good, and Ruby is left to fend for herself, social services is called in. Overnight, Ruby's life changes completely—she moves in with her successful sister and brother-in-law, she enrolls at an elite private school, and she even makes friends with her next-door neighbor Nate, a jock whom she and her stoner friends at her old school would have disdained. New environments mean new relationships, and before long, Ruby finds herself questioning not only the definition of "family" but also everything she's always believed to be true about herself.

Dessen's novel gets its title from the key—to her old house and old life—that Ruby wears on a chain around her neck. Nearly every chapter ends with a compelling question or observation on Ruby's unlocking of others' good qualities and of her own potential. Lock and Key is simultaneously an engaging coming-of-age story and an effective meditation on families—the ones we're born into and the ones we discover along the way.

Norah Piehl is a freelance writer and editor in the Boston area.

 
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