Monday, October 13, 2014

Mini review: Lock & Key by Sarah Dessen

Welcome to another mini book reviews edition of my blog. For this section of my blog, I usually feature reviews of books that don’t really require them – books bought, books I’ve borrowed from friends and books I’ve taken out at the library.

Because they’re not must-review books, my format of these mini reviews differ in that I don’t work the summary into my review in my own words; instead, I feature the Goodreads summary, followed by a few thoughts on my reading experience.

In today’s mini reviews feature, I share my brief thoughts on Lock & Key by Sarah Dessen.

Lock & Key Summary from Goodreads (Puffin Books)

"Ruby, where is your mother?"

Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she's been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow, knowing that her mother will probably never return.

That's how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn't seen in ten years, and Cora's husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around.

A luxurious house, fancy private school, a new wardrobe, the promise of college and a future—it's a dream come true.

So why is Ruby such a reluctant Cinderella, wary and defensive?

And why is Nate, the genial boy next door with some secrets of his own, unable to accept the help that Ruby is just learning to give?

My thoughts:

Oh, what a beautiful, beautiful read.

Sarah Dessen's ability to write stories with so much raw and emotive realism is something to behold and it’s one that only serves to remind me exactly why she's one of my favourite authors.

Funnily enough, my experience with this novel is pretty much a metaphor for this very book.

I initially picked this up a few months back, only to toss it aside after a few pages in because it - believe it or not - bored me.

Fast forward a few months later and I'm at the library, where once again, I waffled over this book.

Should I pick it up or not? Take it or leave it?

At the last moment I decided to eventually take the book out after all, deciding that maybe I was just in a bad mood the last time and that I should give this one a second chance.

And that is how I ended up reading and falling in love with this book second time round.

Lock and Key is essentially a novel about learning to come to terms with change.  Now I know that it sounds rather trite when put in such simple terms, but bear with me while I try to articulate my thoughts.

It’s a book about abandonment and it’s a book about deciding whether or not to adapt and stay or run for the hills.

It’s a novel that’s about taking chances on people when you’ve never had anyone betting on and believing in you and it’s one about accepting that some truths are never what you expect them to be.

Mostly though, Lock and Key is the story of how one girl learns that sometimes everyone - regardless of which side of the track they come from - needs a little help.

Ruby Cooper has every reason to expect the worst.

Her trust does not come easily,  and as a result, she's learnt how to take care of  and rely on herself.

When her mother abandons her, she unexpectedly finds herself being rescued by the sister she hasn't seen for years , as well as moving from the wrong side of town to a place of wealth she’s never known before.

And it’s here within where her journey lies.

I’ve always loved characters that display snarling, wounded-animal-like defensive traits – simply because underneath the vicious exterior, you’ll often find a chest of hidden and untold things - and Ruby is the very embodiment of this.

Being someone that’s had to be more of a maternal figure to her own mother than her mom  has ever been to her,  her attitude takes on a new level of defensiveness when she first moves in with her sister.

Wary of having something good happening to her, and not trusting her new found stability, Ruby is determined to be a transient presence in her new home until she can find an opportune time to escape.

Except that things don’t quite unfold in a way that she predicts, because soon -  and despite her best intentions to avoid it - she manages to make friends.

Not only that but she starts to see that maybe she may just have a shot at salvaging her future.

Of course, things also get complicated when the boy next door takes an interest.

However, just as she settles in, her world is once again turned upside down when she learns a few hard truths about her mother.

With her world crumbling around her, Ruby has to decide whether she should run away or trust people just one more time.

Lock & Key takes an in-depth look into how Ruby develops; from the just-becoming-hopeful moments, to dealing with the uglier issues hiding underneath her devil-may-care façade.  

There are themes of recurring abuse that is dealt with in such an open and honest manner, that you can’t help but feel for all the characters involved (perhaps with the exception of Ruby’s love interest, Nate’s father), regardless of their actions.

Sarah’s writing is sharp, edgy and stripped of all artifice; something which I thought definitely suited the tone of the book and made it so much more powerful for it.

As for the supporting characters, well, I wish I could delve a little deeper and give you some more insight into them, but that would be spoiling the experience you can look forward to when you encounter them for the first time.

What I can say though, is that each of them are beautifully drawn out and written in a manner that speaks of an unflinching amount of raw honesty.

All in all, Lock & Key is a beautiful and haunting read that speaks about the bonds of family and how it shapes and changes you, and it's one that shows that sometimes the best way to help yourself is to learn to accept help, while at the same time also learning to assist others.

Thank God I decided to give this book a second chance, because Lock and Key is one of Sarah Dessen’s finest novels – and officially a new favourite of mine. 

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