Lock and Key


Title: Lock and Key

Author: Sarah Dessen

Series: N/A

Publisher: Speak

Release Date: June 1st 2012


Four Stars

Unlock your heart and the rest will follow.

Ruby is used to taking care of herself.

But now that she’s living with her sister, she’s got her own room, she’s going to a good school, and her future looks bright.

Plus there’s an adorable boy next door.

Can Ruby learn to open her heart and let him in?

– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“It’s a lot easier to be lost than found. It’s the reason we’re always searching and rarely discovered—so many locks not enough keys.”

When I was younger I loved Sarah Dessen’s books. From Just Listen to The Truth About Forever I read them all, then for some reason just before the release of Lock and Key I put her books down and didn’t pick them up again; until today. Slowly, starting with Lock and Key and working my way through to her most recent release, I plan to catch up on all of Sarah Dessen’s book I’ve yet to pick up, and possibly re-read a few favourites of mine.

When her landlords discover she’s been living in squalor without heat and water Ruby is taken from the only life she has known and is sent to live with her sister, Cora, and her sister’s husband, Jamie. Unlike Ruby Cora has made a perfect life for herself with a big beautiful home and kind and loving husband. She takes in her little sister when she needs her help but all Ruby wants is to go back to the yellow house where she lived with her mother.

Ever since their father left when she was five and her sister left for university a few years later it has just been Ruby and her mother, and the two have survived like that. Ruby picks up the slack for her mother; lies when the landlords come for the rent, lies when her mother’s employers call asking where she is. Ruby has become used to being on her own, she doesn’t like relying on anyone and all she wants is to turn eighteen and finally set off by herself.

“Sure, it sucked to be lost, but I’d long ago realized I preferred it to depending on anyone else to get me where I needed to go. That was the thing about being alone, in theory or in principle. Whatever happened – good, bad, or anywhere in between – it was always, if nothing else, all your own.”

The first night she stays at Cora’s Ruby plans to run away, to run back to the yellow house and then far away; but something, be it her brother-in-law’s kindness or the boy in the swimming pool next door, stops her.

After that failed escape attempt Ruby starts adjusting to her new life. She starts making her own way in her new school and as a part of Jamie and Cora’s family, but there are other things she needs to face which threaten to shatter her carefully laid foundation into pieces. Why did her sister leave without a word, and why did her mother disappear and leave Ruby on her own. Then there’s Nate, the boy next door with an easy-going demeanour who only seem willing to do anything to help other people, but refuses to help himself.

…The Characters

“There’s just something obvious about emptiness, even when you try to convince yourself otherwise.”

Ruby was a hard character for me to like at first. She was very closed off, independent but also a little damaged by the life she’s led. She’s used to relying on herself and she doesn’t trust other people or open up to them. Ruby always seems to be waiting for the other shoe to drop and her only goal is to survive until she turns eighteen when she plans to leave and never look back. She wants to be alone and sees nothing wrong with living her life that way.

As the book progressed Ruby slowly started to open up to the people around her, let them offer their support, and that was in large part due to the influence of her sister and brother-in-law. Jamie comes from a large family and he is determined to pull Ruby and Cora into his traditions, to give both them a family. After losing touch with her sister Cora wants to get to know Ruby again and wants to help her make the most of her life now she has the opportunity.

“How do you help someone who doesn’t want your help. What do you do when you can’t do anything?”

Nate, at first glance, seems like the quintessential popular jock who is present in almost every YA contemporary book. He’s one of the most popular students in school, a member of the swim team, and seems to be friends with everyone. Nate is a genuinely kind person, constantly reaching out to Ruby even when she pushes him away, he is always there to help other people but when it comes to accepting help for his own problems he pushes everyone away.

Both Nate and Ruby are similar characters, though at first glance they are very different on the surface. They both have a strong desire to escape from their problems, and both think they can solve everything on their own. However whereas Ruby slowly progresses throughout the book, learning to open up to her family and friends, Nate’s journey in Lock and Key is more difficult.

“What is family? They were the people who claimed you. In good, in bad, in parts or in whole, they were the ones who showed up, who stayed in there, regardless. It wasn’t just about blood relations or shared chromosomes, but something wider, bigger.”

The secondary characters in this book, their relationships with Ruby and each other, were wonderful to read. From her sister and brother-in-law who support her and give her everything she needs without asking anything back, who believe the best in Ruby and are determined to get her to see it as well. Everyone in Ruby’s life, from Harriet and Reggie who work with Ruby in the mall, to Olivia and Gervais who slowly become her friends at school play a part in shaping Ruby’s development throughout this book. Even Ruby’s mother, who we only see through flashbacks and Ruby’s memories, still has some influence over her daughter’s decisions despite being gone.

I thought the blurb made this book sound lighter than it was. The characters face a lot of struggles throughout and the story deals with some serious subjects, among them abuse and abandonment. It’s not just Ruby who is forced to face some hard truths about her past. I wouldn’t say this book is a completely light-hearted contemporary romance but Sarah Dessen writes in a way that shows a bright side despite the hardships her characters face.

What did you think of Lock and Key? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

36 thoughts on “Lock and Key

  1. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one! This was probably one of the last Sarah Dessen books I read. Like you, I just kind of put them down and didn’t read any of her other books even though I had loved all the ones I read before that. It’s been so long since I read this one though that I can’t remember much of what I thought of it or the characters. I definitely need to reread it at one point and then pick up the rest of her books I haven’t read. Lovely review as always! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It seems like a few people stopped reading Sarah Dessen’s books at some point, for me it was just after Just Listen was released but someone else mentioned the same thing in the comments as well. It’s a shame but I’d definitely recommend picking her work up again, granted I still need to read all the books she released after Lock and Key, which are probably the ones you have to read still, but I’m sure they’ll be just as amazing!
      I’m planning on re-reading some of her older books as well, pretty much all I can remember is that I really enjoyed them and that’s about it, nothing more about the plot of the characters.
      Thanks Melissa, I’m glad you enjoyed my review! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think I stopped picking them up because for the longest time during high school I didn’t read much and when I started to really get into it again I was more into fantasy than contemporary. Though I’m still partial to fantasy I definitely mix it up more now than I did back then lol. And I’ve definitely been feeling reminiscent for her books lately.

        That’s my favorite re-reading situation! When it’s been forever and you can’t remember much about the book, it’s like reading for the first time all over again.

        You’re welcome! I hope you enjoy your re-read and reading of Sarah Dessen’s books! Hopefully I can do the same soon. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think for me it must have been the same, except without the long gap of not reading much. I’ve always read a lot I must have just moved over to fantasy.
        I’m trying to mix it up a little as well! I also kind of feel reading too much of one genre, no matter how much you love it, is just a fast way to find yourself in a slump!
        A lot of the Sarah Dessen books I loved definitely for that requirement then! 😀
        I hope so too, and I hope you manage to get around to some of her books soon as well! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I feel that way too! I’ve also noticed that if I read too much of one genre without throwing in something different I end up burnt out on the genre after a while. That’s what happened with dystopia for me.

        I actually want to reread Just Listen so bad! I might have to throw it in my random rereads I do every month. 🙈

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I’m trying to make sure that doesn’t happen. I’ve read a few contemporary books recently so I’m ready to go back to fantasy again for a while! I don’t want to fall into another reading slump or anything!
        Yes, definitely do that. I’m not sure I’ll get to it this month, never say never though but it will likely be the next re-read I do! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I’ve been on a contemporary binge lately because of review books! But it’s been a good thing considering I couldn’t get into Nevernight and was in a pretty bad fantasy reading slump there for a while. Once I’m finished with these I’ll be ready to jump back into fantasy. 😃

        Same here! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Oh no, I hope they’re able to pull you out of it! I plan on it! What I read of it was fantastic and I loved the writing I just couldn’t get into it. I’m not giving up though because I know it’s more of a slow start and that might have been my biggest problem at the time.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. They have been, I’ve got a few fantasy books on my to-read list this week which I am really excited to get started on. I think because I’m mostly a mood reader I need to be in the mood to read certain books and I guess at the moment I’m kind of on a YA contemporary kick!
        Yeah it’s definitely a slow start and kind of a slow build up as well but trust me it’s so worth it when you finally get into it!

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Which fantasy books are on your list? I’m the same way. No matter how much I want to read something if I’m not in the mood for it I can’t get myself to read it. With everyone’s reactions to it that I’ve been seeing it seems worth it. I’ve seen people tweeting the author freaking out over the ending so I’m really curious about how it ends 😂. I can’t wait until I’m able to get back around to reading it. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Well I have a few ARCs I need to get through, but other than that the main two are Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and the Chaos Walking series. Nah I’m the same actually, serious mood reader.
        I was freaking out over the ending as well, just because I did not see it coming at all but it was just so intense! I can’t wait for the second book to be released! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      10. I have a few ARCs I have to get through myself, one of which I could have been done with yesterday but I ended up having a movie marathon day instead 😂. I hope you enjoy them and Cursed Child and the Chaos Walking series 😊. I’ll keep a look out for your review of the first book in that series because I’ve not read the books myself yet or really even reviews. I have a feeling that will be my reaction when I read it. Another series where I’m waiting for the next book 😂.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. I know that feeling, I need to write a review for one of them still which I read a couple of weeks ago, and there’s another that needs to be read and reviewed before next week because that’s when I need to post it!
        I hope so too! I’ve heard good things about both so I can’t wait to get started. And I’ll post reviews as soon as I’m done so you’ll be able to see what I think as well!

        Liked by 1 person

      12. Same! And I’m trying to do that too. I’m cutting it close with this one book though and it’s mainly because for some odd reason another ARC for a book that doesn’t release until Oct 11th went into Archive way before the release date and I had to hurry and read it before anything else.

        Liked by 1 person

      13. Oh that’s weird. I do try and keep on top of my Archive dates, I don’t think I have any upcoming, and I know that for the two I have outstanding still aren’t until after the book has been released so I have a little time left.
        That is weird, I did have one book like that a while ago. I wonder why publishers do it like that, for most the Archive date is at least on or after the release date!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve read it and really liked this one too. I think Along for the Ride was my favourite of her books that I read so far. The last one I read (Dreamland?) was not so good and made me stop reading her books. Maybe I should look into it and see which ones I still have to read. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t actually read Along for the Ride yet, though it’s on my to-read list, so at the moment my favourites are either Just Listen or The Truth About Forever. Still I thought Lock and Key was amazing as well.
      I’d recommend picking her books up again, I can’t remember much about Dreamland but I know I read it so it didn’t make much of an impression on me either!
      I hope you do pick up her books again and enjoy them as well! 😀


  3. I’ve never read a Sarah Dessen novel. I also didn’t have a clue where to start. This sounds like an interesting book. You’re more of a fantasy lover. I see you’ve been branching out a lot lately. 🙂 I’ll add this one to my Goodreads. Nice review, Beth! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s definitely an interesting book, and I love Sarah Dessen, she’s one of my favourite YA contemporary authors, so I’d recommend picking up some of her books. Maybe start with either Just Listen or The Truth About Forever (they’re my favourites!)
      Yeah I am trying to try more genres but at the moment it’s pretty much just sci-fi, fantasy and YA contemporary so not much of a branching out at the moment!
      Thanks Jill. I’m glad you enjoyed my review! 😀


  4. Yaaay, glad to see that you’ve read this book and liked it! “Waiting for the other shoe to drop” is definitely the perfect description for Ruby, haha – she’s VERY guarded as a person and I think has abandonment issues for sure. And I LOVE Jamie – he’s just a super sweet guy and I’m so touched by the things he does for Cora and Ruby, like wanting Cora to have all the things she didn’t have growing up, taking Ruby in and giving her the best that he could, etc. What a stand-up dude. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, I won’t say it’s my favourite Sarah Dessen book but it is definitely up there. Despite it taking me a while to warm up to Ruby when I did I couldn’t put the book down!
      I kind of liked that Ruby was a little guarded, it made her development and her journey that much more interesting to read and satisfying at the end you know.
      Jamie was my favourite character in this book, and I really loved Cora as well and the whole family dynamic they all had (the matching outfits family Christmas card was such a cute scene!) ❤


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