May 19, 2012

Review: Lock & Key

By: Sarah Dessen
Published: April 2008 by Viking
Format: Paperback, 422 pages
First Reviewed: June 2011
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
Add it on Goodreads

Ruby can take care of herself.

Ruby is used to taking care of herself. But now she's living in a fancy new house with her sister Cora - a sister she hasn't seen in ten years - and her husband Jamie - creator of one of the most popular online networking sites. She's attending private school, wearing new clothes, and for the first time, feels the promise of a future that include college and her family. So why is she so wary? And what is Nate - the adorable and good-hearted boy next door - hiding behind his genial nature? As Ruby starts to see, there's a big difference between being given help, and being able to accept it. And sometimes, in order to save yourself, you've got to reach out to someone else.

Rating: 4.5/5

After reading Dreamland, I was excited to dive into this book, knowing I already liked Dessen's writing. I also knew that Dreamland's been said to be different for Dessen, so I figured this would be a major change. I'm not sure about major, but it was different from Dreamland, and I must say that I liked it better. Loved it, in fact.

Okay, Dessen, I love ya! I love your style, your use of voice, and your crafting skills, but you've gotta lay off the "insteads," "stills," and "slowlys." Good lord, I lost count of the number of times she used these words. Especially "instead." It was to the point where I cringed every time I saw it. Also, I found quite a few errors--ahem, editors--and inconsistencies. For instance, Ruby would reflect on something a character said, quoting them, but that quote would actually be wrong. However, I'm such a fan of Dessen. It took me long enough, eh? She's just got this aura about her writing that makes it feel so real. It's simple, but full of beautiful prose, and she's fantastic with dialogue. Hope she's cut down on the "insteads" in future books (one of which I'm reading next), because if she does...phenomenal.

This book has a cast of broken characters. But they're so wonderfully written and developed. Broken characters are usually depicted in the same ways--the kind where everyone can see their pain. But Dessen chose to show many, many different types of broken characters. Each character hiding their secrets from others, yet so believably handling them. It made this story so much more realistic.

It's been a while since I've read a book with a character like Ruby, who undergoes such a strong personal transformation. While I think in a certain area she had a change that happened a bit too quickly (I'll discuss this in a second), overall she was done extremely well. I felt for her and loved following her through her journey.

Nate was such a relatable character that I couldn't help but love him. I think everyone's pretended at some point in their lives. Maybe not to Nate's extreme, but on some level, and that made it all the more interesting as we grew to learn about him and care about him as Ruby did.

As for the other characters, I don't have the time to type out everything I loved about them, not that anyone would read a post that long, anyway (I wouldn't). For Dessen to have handled minor characters like this, is amazing. They all had their stories, their sub-plots, their own personalities and differences, and their transformations. I can't say enough good things about them.

One thing: The romance came about too quickly. By this, I don't mean the InstaRomance, like you read in other books, where they fall in love within seconds. What I mean is that once they had their "moment," I guess you could say, it was fast forward a couple months. "We've been dating, making-out, etc.," you know, that kind of rush. I would have loved to have seen a more developed scene in between that part and the important part after--(minor spoiler)their break-up. It just happened too fast. There were some beginning scenes I think could have been cut down in order to open up for an extra scene.

That said, I really don't have anything but great things to say about this. Dessen covered every emotion as she sent us on this journey with Ruby. With several life lessons, this was just what I wanted and needed to read. The relationship between Ruby and Nate flourished at a wonderful pace (save for the part I mentioned, of course) and it brought a literal feeling of happiness the closer she grew to her family and newfound friends. Honestly, I don't have much to say other than this was a beautifully crafted plot with several realistic sub-plots with major-minor characters, and that's just not something you read enough of in this day and age. I loved it.

Other: Why in the world did everyone seem to have red hair? A random thought while reading. Also, something I just found out Dessen is known for in all her books: Connections to other books! Rogerson from Dreamland was in this book! I got all excited because I love when authors do that. Especially when it was so unexpected. He was an extremely minor character, but he was there! Anyway, it's so nice to see motifs and themes in books again. Sure, there are some in every book, whether or not the author actually intended on having them, but Dessen clearly puts thought into her messages, motifs, and themes, and I love that about her books, especially in Lock and Key.

Overall, this was a great read for me. There were just too many things I took away from it for it not to be something I slip on my favorites shelf. Not only is it beautifully written with amazing characterization and overall plot, it gives one a new outlook on life and on those around you. It just left me happy. A must-read for me.

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