Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Lock and Key

Biblio Bits Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen, Viking, 2008 (ISBN 9780670010882)

Reading Level/Interest Age 840/ages 13+

Genre Realistic fiction, romance

Plot Summary
When 17 year-old Ruby's dead-beat mom abandons her, Ruby copes as well as she can. When social services learns of her situation, Ruby goes to live with her estranged sister, Cora, and brother-in-law, Jamie. Cora and Jamie have successful careers and live in an exclusive neighborhood which is a bit of a culture shock for Ruby. Things get even more shocking when Jamie enrolls Ruby at his alma mater, a private high school, where Ruby feels completely out of place. Ruby finds it difficult to accept her new situation and since she has had to be self-sufficient for so long, she has trouble trusting those who reach out to her. This includes her happy-go-lucky neighbor, Nate, who seems determined to be Ruby's friend. As Ruby and Nate get to know each other better, Ruby realizes that Nate's dad physically and verbally assaults him; given her own past history with her mother, it's hard for Ruby to know how (or if) she should help Nate. As Ruby begins to adjust to and accept her new life and her new relationships, she has to face some difficult truths about herself and her family.

Critical Evaluation
Sarah Dessen has delivered another book that has many of her characteristic appeal factors: family problems, friendships, emotional/psychological reflection, and a little romance thrown in. In typical form, a boy/girl friendship develops into a sweet romance (full of uncertainty, of course), in this case between Nate and Ruby. There were some loose ends in the story, however, that did not feel typical of Dessen, particularly the issue of her mother's disappearance. While this might have been a central focus of the book, Ruby seems to take it strangely in stride that her mother is simply gone. For good? Is she OK? Will she contact or try to find Ruby and Cora? Ruby doesn't seem overly concerned. However, Dessen does give a reader plenty of the realistic details and dialogue, and engaging characters and plot development that her fans enjoy. Fans of Sarah Dessen will probably like this book no matter what.

Reader's Annotation
Ruby thinks she can make it on her own after her mom abandons her---she'll be 18 in only a few months! When she is "found out," she is whisked away to live with her sister in her fancy house, a complicated family reunion ensues.

Author Information
Sarah Dessen was born in Illinois in 1970 and grew up in Chapel Hill, NC. The daughter of two academic parents, Dessen was given an typewriter and a desk and wrote a lot of stories as a child. Dessen was a book-lover from an early age and cites Judy Blume and Lois Lowry as authors who were able to capture her own teenage thoughts and feelings. She waited tables during and after her college years at University of Chapel Hill, and eventually got a teaching position there. Dessen still lives in Chapel Hill with her husband and young daughter, writing full time. (Information in this author biography was gleaned from the author's official site.)

Challenge issues
Underage drinking and drug use, cutting school, casual (but not explicit) sexual encounters, and physical violence against a minor are a few of the parts of this book that might elicit a challenge.

Booktalking Ideas
A perfect selection for a booktalk on the subject of realistic fiction "teen problem" books. Or perhaps a booktalk about teen relationships and romance. Probably, though, you won't have to booktalk it---it'll be mostly off your shelves and in the hands of your 7th/8th grade girls!

Curriculum Ties
Not really much for curriculum content here, but probably high on the list of older middle school girls' pleasure reading.

Why this book?
OK, I admit it. I am a Sarah Dessen fan. I read her latest (ninth) book this summer (Along for the Ride), really liked it, and then remembered that there were a few others that I hadn't yet read. This was the one that happened to be on the shelf when I looked.


Rockport Public Library owns?

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