Friday, January 10, 2014

Rereading Sarah Dessen: Lock and Key

It's the last post for the I Eat Words Sarah Dessen Read/Reread Challenge read! *sobs* Check out this post that explains the details about the awesomeness that is this challenge. This post has been delayed for a few reasons...lots of other books to read for me, the holiday season for both of us, and a wedding Sandy was in at the end of the month. December's read was Lock and Key and it was actually my last read of 2013, which I liked. I was looking forward to this book because I really didn't remember much about it. I'm so glad I reread this one because I adored it. I think it'll make it in my top five favourite Dessen books (see the end of the post for that list).

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.
About the Story
Main  Character: Ruby Cooper
Age: 17
School Year or Summer?: School year.
Boy: Nate Cross
First description of the boy: This is actually the second meeting between Nate and Ruby. The first time they met he's swimming and it's dark so not much detail is given. "In broad daylight, he looked even more like a jock than the night before - in jeans, a t-shirt with collared shirt over it, rope necklace around his neck, and thick flip flops on his feet, even though it was way past beach season. His hair, as I noticed last night, was that white kind of blond, like he'd spent the summer in the sun, his eyes a bright blue." (page 71)
Crushable?: Absolutely...he's the school's Golden Boy but there's so much more to him.
Big Secret?: Yes - more about Nate's family life.
Heavy Storyline?: Yes, both with Nate's life and Ruby's past.
Parents Together?: No. In fact, Ruby's parents aren't even really in the picture.
Sibling(s)?: An older sister, Cora, who takes Ruby in after their mother took off.
Takes Place In: Lakeview, though I don't think the town's name is actually mentioned.
Cameos: So many. In fact, there are so many that I'm just going to provide the link to the Wikipedia page that lists all the references to other works and mention that I picked up on almost all of them.

About the Book
Released: 2008
Epigraph?: No.
Format (of the copy I read): Hardcover - and a special cover, not sure why there were so many covers of this one.
Own?: Yes.
Signed?: No.
Read or Reread: Reread.
Age when first read: 21.
New cover vs older cover: I think I like the newest one (I like the red, maybe because of Ruby's name and the fact that she's a redhead) but I am partial to the one I own.

My Thoughts
I don't know why Lock and Key didn't stand out for me when I first read it. I loved it this time around. Ruby was a really great main character to read about and, as usual, Dessen created an interesting story.
I forgot how serious the subject matter is in this story. Not only does Ruby come from a messed up family but Nate is hiding a huge secret as well. I think Dessen did a great job of showing how conflicted Ruby was when she knew she needed to say something to someone but didn't know how and didn't want to be the snitch, since that destroyed her life. She eventually realizes what the right thing to do is but it's not as hokey as that sounds.
Over the course of the novel Ruby also learns what family really means. Dessen tied in Ruby's school project in an interesting way...she had to come up with an explanation for one word and hers was, you guessed it, family. Because of this project she actually talks to people about the meaning of family and you learn just how different families can be.
Speaking of family, I really liked reading about Cora and Ruby's relationship. We get to learn more about what their upbringing was really like and what went wrong. It was hard to read at some points because you realize how much Cora wanted to save Ruby but she just couldn't. She blames herself and says she should have tried harder but she took on a lot when she was a young teen and I can't imagine her trying any harder. She did all she could at eighteen and you have to commend her for that. I'm so glad they got the chance to work on their relationship and become closer than ever.
I loved Ruby. She thinks she can do everything on her own but during her journey over the course of the novel she realizes that it's ok to accept help from others and that doesn't mean that you're helpless. She's a strong girl but she's not as...hard, I guess, as you might think. Nate is able to work his way into her life, and her heart, and that helps her open up to everyone else.
I'm really glad I reread this one (I know, I'm a broken record) because I can now wholeheartedly recommend Lock and Key to others. I think it's such a great coming of age YA novel that I think everyone can enjoy. 

Sandy's Thoughts
I felt a certain kind of sadness as I started what would be our last Sarah Dessen book for the year 2013. I have very much so enjoyed reading and reviewing over the last eleven months. I have to admit that Lock and Key is one of Dessen’s books that I previously remembered very little about. It has nothing to do with they story or the characters, I just read it so long ago that I forgot. Reading it this past month has been like reading it again for the first time and I really enjoyed it. Though Along for the Ride and This Lullaby remained two of my favourites throughout this process, I also discovered a newfound love for The Truth About Forever and What Happened to Goodbye. I also feel more confident in my recommendations of all Sarah Dessen books, including Lock and Key.
Lock and Key has a different vibe to it than most of Dessen’s other novels. While it is still a coming of age story based on the life of one girl it takes place over a longer period of time and focuses more on the male character and his secret problems. We follow Ruby from her solitary existence in the yellow house to her new life with her estranged sister. The new life she finds herself in is vastly different than where she came from and at first she resents being uprooted and forced to change. When Ruby meets Nate he comes across as someone who sees life in the completely opposite way and challenges her to follow. He is polite, kind, giving and positive, making it seem like he has it all. But no one ever does. Hanging around him, helping him help people allows her to see a different kind of life and more positive way to live.
I really enjoyed the dichotomy between Ruby and her sister Cora. They both went through the same upbringing and have very similar attitudes but Ruby has spent years repressing her helping gene and Cora has spent a lifetime honing it. When Ruby is faced with Nate and his situation she feels, for the first time in a long time, the urge to help and fight for someone other than herself. Having spent years pushing people away so they can’t hurt her, she finally opens herself up to Nate and accepts what true friendship and family can mean. Family is anyone that accepts you and wants to be there for you for no ulterior motive or price. Ruby finds this in the people she lets in once she feels safe enough to do so.
While living with her sister Ruby discovers that telling the truth and being truthful with yourself is the first step in changing who you are and who you could become. Once she opens up about who she is and what she wants people listen and help her. After being thrown into a world of false perfection at Perkins Day she realizes that at first it seems that Cora is trying to rebuild her but once she accepts help from Cora, Jamie and even Nate it is clear they only want the best for her. Those who truly care about her are not looking for her to be perfect, they just want a better life for her. With this realization she begins to let go and want a better life as well.
For most of her life Ruby thought that needing someone meant you were weak. It takes being the one that is needed to break her of that idea. When she lives with Cora and after the truth about their past lack of relationship is revealed she opens to the idea of being taken care of by Cora and Jamie. That was always Cora’s role in her life and it is an easy one to accept. Once she is taken care of she refocuses away from saving herself and towards Nate, someone that no one realized needed saving. It takes some adjustment and time but in the end she is changed and the people around her are as well.
This novel is the perfect coming of age tale from the master of the genre. All Sarah Dessen characters learn a lot about themselves through her novels. Ruby is no exception. By the end of the story you feel as though you have been through the ringer with her. This book seems to take place over a longer period of time than the others, especially the first few that Sarah Dessen wrote. The reader takes a journey with Ruby from rags to figurative riches. She comes into her own and flourishes beautifully. At the end of Ruby’s tale you feel as though she will do well in the future no matter where it takes her.
Sarah Dessen is a fantastic author and I wait impatiently for her next novel and the journey it takes us on.

Overall Thoughts on this Challenge
As I've said over and over again, I'm so glad I did this challenge. I really liked rereading the books by my all time favourite author. I was able to remember why I love her books so much. I also appreciate that I was able to understand a bit more of the nuances in the novels when reading them at 26 instead of 16. That was an interesting experience. So now that I've reread all of the books, what ones are my favourite? Here are my top five Dessen novels:
1. This Lullaby
2. The Truth About Forever
3. Along for the Ride
4. Lock and Key
5. The Moon and More

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes I think that Sarah Dessen is my spirit animal. I haven't disliked any of her books. Lock and Key made me cry so hard. I absolutely love it


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