This is the first book I have read by Sarah Dessen, and since reading it, I have been able to recommend her books to several teens. I suggested her before, simply because her books are popular, but I never really had any basis for my suggestions. Now I have read one, and if the others are as good as Lock and Key, then recommending her books is always a good idea.
I found the premise of the book to be a little bit too Cinderella-ish, but Dessen does a good job of bringing the story back to reality. The main character is Ruby, a seventeen-year-old who has been living on her own for a few months, trying to make it to eighteen without anyone realizing that her mom is gone. She gets caught, however, and ends up being sent to live with the sister that left her family ten years earlier, who Ruby has not heard from since. Cora now lives in a large house with a huge yard in a gated community, with a husband who tries very hard to make Ruby feel at home. Cora is a little bit more hesitant, as if she is no longer sure where she and Ruby stand in their relationship; Ruby doesn't know what to expect either. She begins attending the local prep school, and meets the boy next door, who seems too nice to be real. But this book is about secrets, and about how we lie to ourselves and others to get through life. So nothing is as simple as it seems.
The connections that Dessen makes between Ruby's previous life and the one she now finds herself in are beautiful and moving. She does a wonderful job of moving between the past and present, with Ruby narrating. The story and the relationships are entirely believable, though at first I didn't believe that that was possible. Each of the characters is unique and interesting, and illuminates the story in their own way, even if they seemed like a minor character at the outset. I found the book inexplicably moving, and would recommend it to any high school teen who likes to read about real people.