** Disclaimer: I had to read this book for work and would never have picked it up on my own because I know it's not the type of book I enjoy. As such, the only way I'll be able to make it through this review is with heaping helpings of sass. If you are a fan of Dessen novels, you may want to stop reading now.**
Book Talk: Ruby's mother has taught her not to rely on anyone but herself and that relationships only end in disappointment and abandonment, so she's spent her life keeping everyone at a distance. But when even her mother abandons her one day and Ruby is left alone, she is determined to get through to her 18th birthday on her own. She might have been able to, if it wasn't for her landlords finding out and sending her to live with the sister that she hasn't seen since she left for college ten years ago. During that time she's done well for herself. She's married now with a fancy house and wants to take her sister out of her overcrowded public high school and send her to a private one. It seems nice, but Ruby knows that she can't trust her, or anyone. Not even her cute neighbor who is looking for friendship, and perhaps more. She has to play along for now, but her 18th birthday and independence isn't far away.
Rocks my socks: I suppose there's a good lesson somewhere in there about learning to trust people and being able to change your life for the better.
Rocks in my socks: Where to begin: the predictable plot, the under-developed characters, the fact that Sarah Dessen has clearly very little understanding of the fringes of society? I have never read a less-convincing bad boy character and it had nothing to do with the fact that this was a bad girl. All the characters at the private school ended up being good at heart while the characters at the public school all betray Ruby in favor of their debauched ways. I think what annoyed me the most, however was the abundance of metaphors all revolving around the same theme. You'd think that a book 422 pages long would be able to tackle more than one theme, but you'd be wrong. Every single character was a reflection of what Ruby was going through and every motif brought home the same message. There was the pond with its balanced ecosystem working together, the fish that returned when she was afraid to get attached to it, and let's not forget the titular metaphor of the key! That was woven into so many aspects of the book I'm surprised her name wasn't keyla and she didn't join a chorus so she could learn to sing on key while playing a keyboard and wheeling around in old-fashioned roller-skates with a key that she found by decoding a map with a key word that lead her to an arch where she had to look in the key stone to find the treasure. All of these metaphors wouldn't be so annoying if it wasn't for the fact that they are all so heavy-handed that I'm surprised they didn't fall through the paper they were written on, ripping the book. A few holes obscuring parts of the text could have only improved the novel. As it was, by the end she had hit me over the head so often that I believe I developed a sizable bump.
Every book its reader: Even though, as you might have surmised, I did not enjoy the novel I will admit that this may be in part due to my own prejudices against this type of fiction. I do not enjoy this genre and never have, even as a teenage girl. However this is exactly the type of novel that some people enjoy, and that's fine. The predictable nature of the book and its formulaic writing mean that a reader picking it up knows exactly what they are getting into. Many people find this comforting and will enjoy the way Ruby is saved from rock bottom and makes her way to a bright future while finding romance along the way. For those looking for a light, easy romance novel with a the faintest hint of contemporary issues fiction, this book is for you. Grades 7 and up.
Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
Support your local independent bookstore or check it out at your local library.