Lock and Key, written by the number-one New York Times bestseller Sarah Dessen, is a compelling young adult novel that tells the story of a high school senior Ruby who is abandoned by her alcoholic mother.
Due to her mother’s disappearance, Ruby must move in with her sister Cora and her newly-wed husband Jamie. Her new life is drastically different from the one she left behind. Having left an underprivileged public school and starting at an elite private academy, Ruby feels out of place. In addition, she hadn’t seen or heard from Cora since she left for university years ago, and due to this, Ruby is having trouble reconnecting their relationship. Ruby is faced with the choice of returning to her old lifestyle or embracing the new privileges she has been offered.
Ruby’s greatest obstacle is learning how to trust others after being abandoned, as well as learning about what family means to her. When Ruby gets to her new school, she is assigned a project about the meaning of the word family. Throughout her research with her peers and her own experience, her definition of family changes. The concept of family once meant a life with her abusive and frequently absent mother. As time progresses in her new home life, family comes to mean a place where love, trust, and security exist.
This book is recommended for seventh and eighth graders because of its complex mature themes. I absolutely loved this book and found it so compelling because the diverse characters introduced me to so many new perspectives. Every character shows a lot of insight into their struggles, which made me have a special connection to the book and feel sympathetic for them. Although many readers may not relate to the specific situation Ruby finds herself in, they will relate to her struggle of trusting others, understanding her family, finding her identity and independence.
Overall, despite its dark moments, this book is highly recommended because it shows a young teenager’s triumph as she overcomes devastating trials, which we can all relate to, to some extent.