Nic's Reviews > Lock and Key

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
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's review
Mar 24, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: audiobook
Read in March, 2011 , read count: 2

** spoiler alert ** Liked this pretty well, although my favorite of hers is still definitely Along for the Ride. A narrative pattern is definitely starting to emerge, and I kind of understand why people say all of Dessen's books are the same. Still, the specific emotional issue(s) the seventeen-year-old female protagonist has varies a lot with the book, and I like the writing a lot.

I'm impressed with how many subplots Dessen works in without things seeming overcrowded. Things blend smoothly together, and really do seem like they're just part of the protagonist's life and the lives of her friends and family. I think that's key (ha ha - sorry, it's this book, keys) - each supporting character has at least one subplot of his/her own. A quick rundown of what I can think of offhand:

Nate, of course, has the developing relationship with protagonist Ruby, as well as recovering from the breakup with Heather, working for his dad, and his Big Dark Secret (that his dad is not only a jerk, but physically abusive)

Cora has all of the issues tied up with Ruby's and her messed-up family life, and she's also trying to get pregnant, all while leading an active social life with husband Jamie and working as a lawyer

Jamie wants to help Ruby, is excited about putting in a pond in his backyard, worries about the dog, doesn't want people to treat him differently because he's a super-rich CEO (invented what's basically Facebook in the world of this book), and wants to celebrate the holidays in his family's extravagant style, especially since Cora and Ruby never got to do this as kids

Olivia feels out of place at Perkins Day and misses her friends at Jackson (Dessen is, BTW, really good at coming up with place and organization names that sound to me like real ones and fit their circumstances perfectly), and is (skeptically) helping her cousin Laney train for a 5K

Harriet is working on her control-freak-dom and running her business, and also circling hesitantly with Reggie, relationship-wise

Gervais lacks social skills, but wants to be friends with Olivia, which he accomplishes while tutoring Ruby in Calculus

. . . and various other things, not to mention the myriad issues Ruby's dealing with.

I had some trouble dealing with Ruby for awhile because she's, well, a jerk. At least in the beginning. I understand that she has these trust issues, etc., but she treats nice people badly, and that gets tiresome.

Ruby's also more different from me, I think, than most of Dessen's heroines are. All the others I've read so far are solidly middle-class, for one, while Ruby goes from seriously slumming - living by herself at seventeen in a house where the power keeps getting cut off - to living in a million-plus-dollar house with gazillionaire family. Ruby ditches school to get smashed and smoke pot. Is it any wonder it's easier for me to identify with the protagonist of Along for the Ride, whose problem is basically being too academically focused?

The reflection and the plot stuff is occasionally a bit heavy-handed here. For one, I find it hard to believe that anything besides The Power of Dramatic Timing Compels You! would stop Ruby from opening Nate's Valentine's Day gift earlier than she does. It's not even like she loses it or forgets she has it, two good buddies of the Delayed Gift Opening Scene. She's just got this beautifully-wrapped present from a guy she really likes, and they have a sad falling-out, and so she puts it away unopened and just keeps not opening it. ('Course, I kind of knew what it would be, anyway.)

Similarly, methinks Ruby doth protest too much when she's forced to go to the mall and be bought expensive clothes by her rich sister. I didn't love clothes shopping as a teen, so in theory I can sympathize; I think I'm mostly thrown because multiple other characters are like, "Come on, most teenaged girls would love this!" (One even uses the term "wish fulfillment.") And Ruby's like, "Well, I don't!" (And Sarah Dessen's like, "Well, I'm not writing a blatant wish-fulfillment scene!") The scene(s) themselves aren't actually bad at all - none of that "for someone who doesn't care about clothes, she sure spends a lot of time describing them" stuff that sometimes happens - and the other characters' reactions are probably pretty realistic. I think it was really just the use of the term "wish fulfillment" that threw me, because it did make me imagine the author trying to justify herself.

I really liked how the Gervais-obviously-akwardly-likes-Ruby thing was subverted. That was funny and nice.

As a side note, there are two (that I caught) subtle references to characters from Just Listen. Thought that was kind of fun.

EDIT: I've now also listened to the audiobook read by Rebecca Soler, and I liked it quite well.

However! Question! That I've had both times I read (or "read") this book! How is it that Ruby throws her key in the pond at the end when she has, in fact, given this key to Nate? We never hear anything about him having given it back . . .

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