Dessen, Sarah. Lock and Key.

NY: Viking, 2008.

“Young Adults” is a marketing ghetto I tend to ignore as being self-limiting. A book is either well-written or it isn’t. And Dessen writes very good books. All of them, naturally, focus on teenagers with problems, either personal or societal, but this one is a bit darker than most. Ruby Cooper’s problem is nothing so mundane as just not finding the right boyfriend. Her father left when she was eight and her sister, Cora, was eighteen, leaving just them and their not very stable mother. Then Cora went off to college on a self-earned scholarship and apparently cut off contact, and Ruby had to deal with their mom by herself.

They moved a lot, often with rent in arrears and one step ahead of the bill collector. But now her mother has abandoned seventeen-year-old Ruby altogether and disappeared. The police and the courts get involved and Cora and her husband, Jamie, a young Internet millionaire, have taken her in, at least until she reaches legal age.

Ruby’s only goal is to be free — of the weight of the world, of responsibilities to anyone else, of the need for anyone else. Her sister and Jamie sign her up for an expensive private day school, which her brother-in-law himself attended, and loved. It’s a very different sort of educational experience from her previous overcrowded, underfunded public high school and she’s sure she’s not going to fit in, but somehow she manages. And she meets Nate, whose back yard and pool are adjacent to her, and who begins giving her a ride to school each morning. Nate has his own problems, involving a heavy involvement in his aggressive father’s personal service and errand-running business.

This is the story of Ruby’s psychological progress through her senior year, learning how to have friends, discovering the shattering truth about her mother and what really happened with her sister, and eventually trying very hard to help Nate. She’s a very sympathetic character and totally believable, as all of Dessen’s characters are. Highly recommended, whether you’re a young adult or not.

Published in: on 21 July 2017 at 6:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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