Earlier today I finished my third book by Sarah Dessen in the last week or so, and so decided that, to start trying to write more book reviews (a goal I originally set out as a new year’s resolution), I would take the opportunity to write a few mini reviews. I’ve actually also read The Moon and More, which I recall enjoying, so I highly recommend you read some of her books 🙂
Book covers from Sarah Dessen’s website
1//Lock & Key
What happens when your past is not just past, but wiped clean entirely? How do you figure out where you’re going when you can’t even claim where you’ve been? These were the questions that inspired Lock and Key. It’s the story of a girl named Ruby who is abandoned by her mother and determined to make it on her own, even—and especially—when she is sent to live with her long-lost sister in a whole new world of privilege, family, and relationships. As Ruby learns, there’s a big difference between being given help and being able to accept it. And sometimes, it takes reaching out to someone else to save yourself.
I absolutely LOVED this book. Another reader (I’m afraid I can’t remember who) of Dessen’s books commented on Twitter, around about when I finished this book, that Dessen was one of the most realistic YA writers out there (or words to that effect), and I totally agree, at least for this book. Although I’m lucky enough for the world of abandoning parents, overcrowded schools and drugs to be pretty unknown to me, I felt like Dessen was saying it like it is, not underestimating or exaggerating. I think the unusual concept of a mother abandoning her daughter was dealt with really well, in a way that made it entirely believable but wasn’t overwhelmingly blasé. You could argue that the drugs theme was quite underdeveloped, sprinkled in here and there for a bit of extra spice, but that’s being especially critical, and wasn’t really something I thought of as I was reading it. I did, however, think a lot about the key motif – I think it’s really nice how she made something so private to one person so public, and also how it can represent a lot of things – closing a door, opening a new one (yes, I just came up with that idea. GCSE English literature dissection skills coming into play!). Plus, I now seriously want a key necklace.
Colie expects the worst when she’s sent to spend the summer with her eccentric aunt Mira while her mother, queen of the television infomercial, tours Europe. Always an outcast — first for being fat and then for being “easy” — Colie has no friends at home and doesn’t expect to find any in Colby, North Carolina. But then she lands a job at the Last Chance Cafe and meets fellow waitresses Morgan and Isabel, best friends with a loving yet volatile relationship. Wacky yet wise, Morgan and Isabel help Colie see herself in a new way and realize the potential that has been there all along.
Slightly confusingly, this book is listed on Sarah Dessen’s website as ‘Keeping the Moon’, but I read it as a book called ‘Last Chance’…oh well. I enjoyed this book a lot, but not quite as much as Lock & Key, although I’m not sure why. Maybe because Lock & Key is a bit more modern, I think? But thinking back to it, there’s nothing I particularly dislike, although I think it may have worked a little bit better if Morgan and Isabel were closer to Colie’s age – though to be fair, I don’t think we actually specifically get told their age. Similarly, it felt a bit unrealistic, the amount of relationship-orientated stuff to do with Colie as she was only 15. But hey, maybe it’s different in America, and for different people. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and could especially relate to Colie’s disbelief regarding Mira’s reaction to the local people.
Last year, Annabel was “the girl who has everything” — at least that’s the part she played in the television commercial for Kopf’s Department Store.
This year, she’s the girl who has nothing: no best friend because mean-but-exciting Sophie dropped her, no peace at home since her older sister became anorexic, and no one to sit with at lunch. Until she meets Owen Armstrong.
Tall, dark, and music-obsessed, Owen is a reformed bad boy with a commitment to truth-telling. With Owen’s help, maybe Annabel can face what happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends
This was probably my least favourite of the three. I’m not entirely sure why, it just unnerved me a bit. It still felt realistic, but I would have liked to know more about Sophie and Annabel’s argument earlier in the book, and didn’t particularly like the subject matter. Also, I felt that the reader’s introduction to Whitney’s eating disorder could have been a bit smoother – it was just not here, then here. I did, however, like the ending of the book, with stuff coming right, (placeholder alert! as Owen would say!), and the development of Annabel’s relationships, with her family, Owen, Clarke and Emily. I also liked the emphasis on music, and although Owen’s specific music taste doesn’t really overlap with mine, the idea that music takes your mind off of things, and can mean different things to different people, I felt like I could relate to a bit. I also really want to have my own radio show, and love the idea of mixtapes – I made one for my sister for GCSE results day, which she really liked, and which I loved making. Making a mixtape really makes you consider what people like and how well you know them, and I really enjoy thinking about how I can make something someone else will enjoy.
Overall Author Rating
4 planets, because stars are just too mainstream.
I’m not really sure why four not five, but it’s just a gut feeling. Maybe I’ll change my mind…I don’t even know right now!
Have you read any of Sarah Dessen’s books? What do you think of them? Have you got any plans to pick one up in the future?