Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

9780142414729_LockAndKey_CV.inddPublished: April 22nd, 2008 by: Speak/Viking Children’s

Genres: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Format: ebook Source: Library

My Rating: 4 Stars


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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’m still trying to find that one Dessen novel that will blow me away. This one came really close, but there was so much that annoyed me in the beginning that I couldn’t ignore. This one runs neck and neck with The Moon and More in my favorites department. I liked the story and the characters. The situation was realistic and emotional for all parties involved. 

We are back in Lakeview, one of my favorite Dessen settings, with seventeen-year-old Ruby. Ruby has been abandoned by her mother. She’s been taking care of herself for a long time, even before mom bailed. Her older sister, Cora, got away. She got away and never looked back. Or did she? Ruby has all these preconceived notions about her sister and her mom, so the girl has issues. Aside from her familial problem, she gets high/drunk and has a regular guy that she sleeps around with. After getting busted about her living situation, she’s turned over to child services and her sister is contacted. From there, Ruby has a lot of healing and growing to do; and she finds out that her mom has been lying to her all this time.

First off, I am absolutely in love with Ruby’s brother-in-law, Jamie. If you have read any Dessen novel, then you know of Ume.com. Well, Jamie is the Mark Zuckerberg of this fictional world. He wasn’t throwing his weight around, because only a handful of people actually know who he is. He and his wife just took Ruby in and tried to make her life easier. Ruby wasn’t exactly an upstanding citizen, but she grew on them and me. It was pretty clear that Cora has tried to be in Ruby’s life from the moment she left for college. Having a drunk, uncaring mother in between can make everything muddy. So Ruby finally sees the truth, and isn’t sure how to deal with it all. Cora is a really nice person, and she helps a lot of people. I knew how this story would turn out for them. I did not see the other part of this story unfolding until it was too late.

I wouldn’t exactly call Nate a secondary character. His story is just as important and I actually teared up at one point. Nate is Ruby’s new neighbor, now that she lives with her sister. She’s also signed up at Jamie’s Alma Mater, Perkin’s Day – a local private school. She carpools with Nate and a twelve-year-old prodigy named Gervais. Those are some interesting mornings, I’ll just say. But Nate has been going through something awful and I was glad that he was helped in the end. Still, it was heartbreaking to read. There are more characters that I love. Olivia – the sarcastic phone talker who is new to PD, Harriet – Ruby’s boss at her part-time job & Reggie – vitamin guy one booth over. They were all great supporting characters with interesting personalities. I think if there hadn’t been a lot of this going on, this would have been quite boring, no matter the subject.

In the beginning, I was so annoyed by the way Dessen writes. She mixes first person present and past tense, so you have to pay attention or you’ll get lost. Sometimes it works really well for the story, sometimes it doesn’t. I know that it all adds up, but at first I just didn’t see the point of it all, until I met a few of the other characters. They really kept this story alive, and it flowed really well the rest of the way. I recommend this to lovers of realistic fiction. Contemporary fans will love this also, but there’s a lot of sensitive topics here that may be a trigger for some. If you are not really good with reading abuse and neglect, I don’t recommend this one. I mean, I hated those moments, but I pushed through it all without it leaving me emotionally drained. Another solid read from an author that has now become one of my must-reads. 


Also by this author: The Moon and More | Keeping the Moon / Along for the Ride | The Truth About Forever | What Happened To Goodbye

28 thoughts on “Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

  1. I am also waiting for the one perfect Dessen novel to blow you away because that’s the one I’m going to read! Glad you still liked this one and I seriously love reading your reviews of all of her books ♥


  2. Hmmm, the mix of present and past tense would throw me off and distract me. I have not read a Dessen book! I’ve seen many people call her the Queen of YA Contemporary. I don’t love YA contemporary, but I definitely want to see what all the fuss is about. You’ll let me know when you find the Dessen book that blows you away – I’ll try that one. 😉

    Great review, Lekeisha!

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!


  3. I have a stack of Sarah Dessen books in my closet I need to get to immediately! I read This Summer a while ago and actually really liked it. This is one of the titles I have so after reading your review I think I will end up liking it. When I’m in the mood for it I do like realistic fiction. So this will be a good place for me to start when I’m ready to start reading through the SD books I have. Great review. I will look out for the tense changes and try to keep up.


  4. I read this one years and years ago so I don’t really remember anything about it but I do remember enjoying it. I really loved Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen. It’s probably my favourite of her novels (though to be fair I read the rest of them at least 7 or 8 years ago and don’t remember anything). I also remember loving Just Listen when I was in high school.


  5. I read this some time ago so I can’t remember what the deal was with Nate. I do know that I felt bad for Ruby but I think I wanted to shake her a few times? See, it’s been a long time since I read it, but I did give it 4 stars like you, and I remember loving Jamie, as well. Wonderful review, Lekeisha! 🙂


  6. So, this is another Dessen book that you didn’t care for. 😦 That’s actually kinda sad. 😦 You would thin that the way she writes with the whole mixing the times and all that, it would make it more interesting, and keep you on your toes which is what I’m sure she was trying to do… but yeah… I guess in this case, NAH. I hope your next read is better lovely! ❤


    • If you love contemporary and realistic fiction, then I’m sure you would love a few of her books. Not all of them are great (the ones I’ve read so far), but I have yet to rate any less than 3 stars.


    • Yes, good enough. I am just really wanting to read summer/beach reads right now, and my library has all of her titles in that section so I’ve been taking advantage. Hopefully my next one is a 5 star.


  7. I’ve never read Sarah Dessen, but I’ve always been curious. If you ever find that one novel that blows you away, be sure to let me know! This one sounds pretty good though, and it’s pretty cool that Dessen has a fictional “facebook” in her world and that the creator of it gets a role in this one 😀


  8. I feel like Sarah Dessen is one of those authors you read for comfort, or to fill in summer afternoons. I don’t know. I don’t anticipate her blowing me away at all.. But I’m might like a few of her books. Nice review!


  9. Missed it by ‘that’ much, huh? LOL!
    But it does sound good with Ruby fitting into her new life with Cora and Jamie and all that goes on.


  10. It seems like this one came awfully close to being the ultimate book for you in terms of Sarah Dessen but it wasn’t quite there yet. That’s really good news for me actually, because this is a Dessen book I own but haven’t read yet! I’m looking forward to getting to it now and hopefully it will impress me just as much as it managed to do for you ^.^


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