Sunday, May 04, 2008

Lock and Key, by Sarah Dessen

Ruby almost made it to her 18th birthday without anyone finding out that she was living on her own since Mom left her. She would have made it if the dryer hadn't broken down and the landlords noticed that she was alone in the house and then called social services. But this set-back has striking good fortune attached to it as Ruby is reunited with her older sister (who left home ten years before) and her new family. And as Ruby adjusts to her new school, new friends, and new life, she explores the meaning of the word "family" and everything it encompasses.

As long-time readers of this BLOG know, I'm not a big fan of the parents-abandoning-children motif, but if someone could rescue this boiler-plate, it would be Sarah Dessen. It's been pointed out to me that Dessen is one of the best developers of characters (each of hers have depth and personality, no matter how small of a role they have), but I've always been more of a fan of her wistful language. There's less of that here than I would like, but the novel is certainly a good one. It won't rank up with Dreamland or Someone Like You (my favorites) but it is still an excellent addition to her pantheon. There are even a few Easter Eggs in this one (as she has done in most of her recent novels) to reward the loyal readers. And, in keeping with current trends as well, this novel's theme (family) is fairly consistently played throughout, albeit sometimes with a bit of a sledgehammer.

What kills me though is how poorly Dessen gets treated by YALSA and the professional librarian clique. I guess it is because she doesn't have a lot of multicultural characters in her stories or perhaps it is bias against the commercial success of her work, but it seems grossly unfair. Without a doubt, Dessen is one of the best YA writers currently working. Her books are not fluffy Gossip Girls trash nor even as lightweight as Meg Cabot (now, don't get me wrong, I like Cabot too, but she's a guilty pleasure) and she deserves some recognition for them. But while I see her novels get nominated on the YALSA BBYA lists, it never goes further than that.

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