Unfortunately for me, I only became acquainted with Sarah Dessen's books within the last couple of years, when I really began to focus my career on youth librarianship and started devouring teen novels like they were oatmeal raisin cookies (yummy!). I fell in love with this author and her beautiful manner of writing about teen girls and their experiences with love, loss, family, and friendships. Dessen's books are not always easy to read emotionally, for the simple fact that they are so authentic to teens and really allow the reader to connect with the often hurting characters. Lock and Key, Dessen's latest (and maybe greatest) is not due out in stores until mid-April of this year, but when I received a copy in my mailbox this week, along with a bunch of others, I knew I had to read this one first.
We meet Ruby while she is still living in the old yellow house she and her mother are renting. Ruby is extremely independent, holding down a job while she attends high school, doing her own cooking and laundry. What Ruby doesn't have, however, is a choice. Her mother left her several months ago, simply disappearing one day and never returning, leaving Ruby to fend for herself. When her landlords find out that Ruby is trying to survive all alone, they call social services and Ruby gets placed with her sister Cora, whom she hasn't seen in over ten years.
Moving into a huge, beautiful house with Cora and her husband Jeremy may seem like a dream come true to most, but Ruby knows it's just temporary. She only has a few months left until her 18th birthday, when she can legally be out on her own, and is determined to leave by then. Her relationship with her sister is strained, at best, stemming from Ruby's feelings of abandonment by her big sister years ago. Though Jeremy tries hard to help the two sisters reconnect, Cora is dealing with issues of her own and Ruby simply isn't interested.
Over the next several months, as Ruby gets used to her new, private school, her new home, and a new job, she begins to wonder if she really does belong on her own. She slowly begins to connect with people again, an ability she lost once her mother left her, making a few friends and finding companionship with Nate, a neighbor that has his own sad past. Learning to trust again is very difficult for Ruby, but as she learns valuable lessons from each new person she meets, her eyes are opened to new possibilities, as well as relationships she never before believed were hers for the taking.
Sarah Dessen truly has a talent in her character creation. Every single character infused into the plot of this book is incredibly believable and leaves the reader connecting with each one of them. Whether it be sympathy (or empathy) for Ruby and Cora, dislike for Nate's dad, or just plain comfort with Jeremy, I was able to connect and enjoy each character. This is an amazing novel that I know teens everywhere will love, not to mention the adults that better be adding this book to their Amazon pre-order list once you're done reading my post (the book cover photograph links to Amazon)! Do it, you won't be disappointed!