Lock And Key by Sarah DessenLock And Key by Sarah Dessen

Lock And Key

bySarah Dessen

Paperback | May 14, 2009

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From the award-winning and New York Times bestseller Once and for All

Unlock your heart and the rest will follow.

Ruby is used to taking care of herself.
But now that she’s living with her sister, she’s got her own room, she’s going to a good school, and her future looks bright.
Plus there’s the adorable boy next door.
Can Ruby learn to open her heart and let him in?
“All the Dessen trademarks here” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
Sarah Dessen is the winner of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for her contributions to YA literature, as well as the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award.
Books by Sarah Dessen:
That Summer
Someone Like You
Keeping the Moon
This Lullaby
The Truth About Forever 
Just Listen
Lock and Key
Along for the Ride
What Happened to Goodbye
The Moon and More
Saint Anything

Once and for All
Sarah Dessen is the author of thirteen novels, which include the New York Times bestsellers The Moon and More, What Happened to Goodbye, Along for the Ride, Lock and Key, Just Listen, The Truth About Forever, and This Lullaby. Her first two books, That Summer and Someone Like You, were made into the movie How to Deal.  Dessen’s boo...
Title:Lock And KeyFormat:PaperbackDimensions:448 pages, 8.25 × 5.44 × 1.13 inPublished:May 14, 2009Publisher:Penguin Young Readers GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0142414727

ISBN - 13:9780142414729

Appropriate for ages: 13 - 17

Books by Sarah Dessen


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Sarah Dessen never disappoints. This was my all time favourite book of hers and I will continue to read every book she comes out with
Date published: 2018-02-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from GREAT A sweet story and good easy read.
Date published: 2018-01-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great YA read! A fresh take on the adolescent life, taking the reader on a journey showing the struggles that Ruby faces and how opening her heart can be truly healing. Truly relatable, especially for teens going through struggles.
Date published: 2017-12-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Meant for younger readers This book is definitely better for those just getting into reading or still in their high school phases. It is a good book, don't get me wrong, but I enjoyed it more as a teenager than I did in my 20's. Still one of her better books in my opinion, however.
Date published: 2017-11-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from YA book Dessen really has a specific way of writing. I would have liked these more when I was younger. Meant for a younger audience... middle school/high school.
Date published: 2017-11-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good A light and easy read. Love her books!
Date published: 2017-10-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Enjoyable YA I always wanted to read more Sarah Dessen when I was younger. She's prominent in a lot of school libraries and in bookstores. For some reason I never really got to them and am catching up on her stories now. This wasn't a bad read and I'm sure if younger me would have read it she would have enjoyed it even more.
Date published: 2017-09-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from good A perfect and light Summer read!
Date published: 2017-08-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Story I loved reading this novel. All of Sarah Dessen's novels are so easy to read.
Date published: 2017-07-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! This was the first Sarah Dessen book I have read and it was a hit! It was a great story about forgiving family when you need to and learning to trust. I will definitely be reading some more of her books!
Date published: 2017-07-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from favorite Sarah Dessen Novel!!! this book got me addicted to Sarah Dessen, loved it. one of my favorite ever
Date published: 2017-07-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really good book I read this book a couple of years ago and just fell in love with the writing.
Date published: 2017-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it This one and The Truth about Forever are my top favourite Sarah Dessen novels, they're perfect light reading for summer with a drink somewhere on the beach!
Date published: 2017-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Contemporary Read I have never read a Sarah Dessen's book before, but I have heard so much great opinions about it so I decided to pick one up. And let me just say that I did not regret it. It was done beautifully. From the very first page, the very circumstances of the main character, Ruby, just catch your eye. It makes you want to get to know her better and just dive into her world. Definitly recoomend contemporary readers to read it. Especially Morgan Matson fans!
Date published: 2017-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great contemporary read I have never read a Sarah Dessen's book before, but I have heard so much great opinions about it so I decided to pick one up. And let me just say that I did not regret it. It was done beautifully. From the very first page, the very circumstances of the main character, Ruby, just catch your eye. It makes you want to get to know her better and just dive into her world. Definitly recoomend contemporary readers to read it. Especially Morgan Matson fans!
Date published: 2017-06-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great book I read this book a few years back and have since read every single one of Sarah Dessen's novels; it sparked my love for her books. To this day it's still one of my favourites by her.
Date published: 2017-03-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from One of her best! I liked Sarah Dessen's books and I've read 6 of them - this one may be my favourite of them. I find her books to be somewhat simple, which is the reason I am giving it 4 stars, but given that it's a Sarah Dessen book and that the story is going to be simple and have the typical storyline she follows in her books, I would give it 5/5. So in short, if you're a Dessen fan, definitely read this one.
Date published: 2017-03-23
Rated 1 out of 5 by from really? The quote praising the book is written by the publisher his or herself...that should tell you all you need to know.
Date published: 2017-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from MY FAVOURITE I have read all the Sarah Dessen books and this one is by far my favourite! She did an awesome job like always. This book was finished within 3 hours and then read again and again because I couldn't get enough of it.
Date published: 2017-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from amazing Couldn't put this book down until I finished it.
Date published: 2017-02-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great! I loved this book! I read it in one sitting!
Date published: 2017-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely amazing! Sarah Dessen is one of my favourite authors, this is my all time favourite of her's :D
Date published: 2017-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great read one of my favourites of Dessen's books.
Date published: 2017-01-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from So good! Another hit for Dessen! This one was darker like Dreamland and I really love that about it
Date published: 2017-01-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A simply amazing read I've read most of Sarah Dessen's books, and this one will always be my favourite. Everyone can relate to something from this book, whether it's one of the relationships, the way the characters grow, or the different family structures. You won't be able to put it down. So amazing.
Date published: 2016-12-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Love it Once I started it, it seems like I can't put it down. The story is so well-written that it keeps you turning those pages. I really liked the plot. Hope to read more Sarah Dessen in the future.
Date published: 2016-12-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Page Turner Couldn't put the book down the moment I picked it up. It was just so real, another phenomenal job by Sarah.
Date published: 2016-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing I really loved this book and couldn't put it down. My best friend recommended this book to me and I'm glad she did. Before this one, I had only read Someone Like You and Along For The Ride and i recently purchased two more of her novels and am excited to read more from Sarah Dessen.
Date published: 2016-12-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Captivating! Couldn't put it down Sarah Dessen knows how to write books for teens. I really enjoyed the character development in this one.
Date published: 2016-12-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love it! This is the first novel I had ever read by Sarah Dessen, and it subsequently inspired me to purchase every novel she has ever written. To this day, lock and key remains my favorite sarah dessen novel (along with Saint Anything) and one of my favorite contemporaries of all time.
Date published: 2016-11-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from I Liked It!! I liked the book, but I didn't love it. I think Sarah Dessen is a great writer, but her book endings leave me wanting more. Also, parts of her books just drag on a little too much for my liking.
Date published: 2016-11-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A pleasant surprise Not a normal pick for me but I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. Ruby, as guarded as she was, was not just some hormonal teenager. I find a lot of novels portray teens as just stubborn individuals who don't think their actions through. These teens were not like that. They learned as they went along.
Date published: 2016-11-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love this one! love all her books, always so perfect!
Date published: 2016-11-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My heart will be forever locked into this novel. I love Ruby's character and how her story develops. How this is about family and support as well as a cute boy next store, Nate. Highly recommend this, the discovery to how Ruby re discovers herself is truly phenomenal. Great job Sarah, another brilliant piece. Definitely a must read and this will always be one of my favourites along with Just listen
Date published: 2015-08-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A wonderful story The first of Sarah Dessens books I've read and none of the others came close to it. I've read it multiple times, this book is an all time favourite!
Date published: 2015-05-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sarah Dessen is an amazing writer I love this book I recommend it to you and her other books Sarah Dessen is an absolutely amazing book writer I love her and recommend her!!
Date published: 2014-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Phenomenal read! I can't say how much I love this book. I have already read it twice and I'm ready to read it many more times! It's a wonderful story about discovering yourself and learning how to accept what life throws at you. Ruby is a mysterious character and Nate couldn't be a better soul mate for her during her new beginning. I DEFINITELY recommend this book!!
Date published: 2013-04-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Amazing Lock and Key is a beautifuly written book with strong characters and an amazing plot. At first I felt that it was a bit dull and boring, but boy, was I wrong. I loved the character development and their backstories, and the romance was strong but didnt take over the entire book. There were great family elements, and a lot about making decisions. All of the characters were deep and real. I did enjoy the ending, but felt like the part with Nate was a bit rushed. Overall, great book for teens!
Date published: 2013-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from fantastic! wow! this was the 3book that i read and i absolutly loved it. at first i thought it's going to be very long, because this is the biggest book that sarah rought, but after reading the first page i couldn't stop reading and reading! the story was great, the caracters were great every thing was absolutly marvulous :)
Date published: 2011-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Can't Stop Reading it I got this book a few years ago and I can't stop picking it up & reading it again and again. This book brought me to tears & after reading it I ran out & bought myself a key necklace. Sarah Dessen's writting is amazing, she is by far my favourite author. I have read all of her books including her newest one "What Happened To Goodbye" All her books share a similarity that never gets old, I highly recommened any of her books, but this one is my favourite!
Date published: 2011-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brought me to tears Sarah Dessen has done it again! This time not only is she focusing on the main character's issue(which are some serious abandonment issues) but she evolves the main character to start helping someone else in her life that needs help. With the main character having absolutely no trust issues and believing that she is in life for the long haul alone Dessen makes her realize that sometimes its good to have someone there to help you, just like you may need to be there for someone else. She produces the idea of give and take to make the world go round instead of being just independent being apart of something, whether it a family or a friendship. Sarah Dessen brought tears to my eyes in this novel of being lost and being found and I managed to make me really appreciate my sister more.
Date published: 2011-05-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great! This is the fourth book I have read by Sarah Dessen, and to say the least I was not disappointed! I absolutely loved this story. It was filled with such depth, and is surely worth reading over again! The story is about a girl who tries her best to discover herself and discover what went on in the past and how to deal with the fact that her mother has abandoned her. She finds love when she least expects it and starts to let people in when she is in dire need of help. Excellent writing, I’d recommend it to any of you who love to read about teen romance.
Date published: 2011-03-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! Lock and Key is one of my favourite books written by Sarah Dessen, along with 'Along For The Ride'. Lock and Key has a very interesting plot and some unexpected events. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to all Sarah Dessen lovers!
Date published: 2010-10-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from all time best Nate and ruby's connection was great but also a mystery. **spoiler** loved how the author kept Nate a whole mystery and then u end up finding out something so deady between him and his dad
Date published: 2010-08-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from LOVED IT!!!!!! I loved this book. it wasn't good at the beggining but then it got better and better and i had trouble putting it down. amazing read it now!!!!
Date published: 2010-07-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Heartwarming, and Amazingly Written! This is the first novel I've read by Sarah Dessen, but boy let me tell you, it will defiantly not be my last!! This was an emotional, beautiful and heartbreaking story that had me captivated right until the end. The beginning was slow but as it progressed, I could not put it down! I don't usually read these kind of realistic, intense stories, but Dessen left me in "awe" as I read, and now, I cannot wait to read more of these kinds of books! At times I wanted to reach into the book and hug the characters, they were so likeable because of their amazing strength, they go through so much. It was so inspiring to read about what the main character has gone through, but still managing to fight through it. Ruby doesn't have it easy. Ever since her parents divorced, her mother has never been the same. Her mother smokes, drinks, and doesn't come home from time to time. Ruby stays by her mother's side and does anything she can for her. Ruby's sister, Cora, used to live with them until she left to College. Since then, they haven't been in touch, she has a new life now, which doesn't include Ruby. She has come to live with the fact that her sister doesn't want to speak to them anymore. Days pass and Ruby's mother doesn't come home. This doesn't surprise Ruby so she takes care of herself, and manages to do so for a little while--Until the bills start piling up and she has no choice but to leave. She's not eighteen yet, and the social workers are forcing her to go live with her sister, Cora. Ruby has no choice. She hasn't seen Cora in ten years, and when she enters their home, she's shocked. She has an amazing house and a wealthy husband who is extremely nice. Though, all Ruby wants to do is pack her things and return to her home. She wants to leave, but that becomes difficult when Cora and her husband, Jamie want to do everything they can for her. Ruby tries to settle, fit in at a new private school, and manages to meet a few people along the way. Her neighbour, Nate Cross, is the popular, king of everything at school, blonde swimmer who she meets the day she moves in. She tells herself that he's not her type, and that they have nothing in common, but the more they get to know eachother, the more they realize that they couldn't be more alike.. Ruby keeps to herself and denies the friendship her and Nate have. She doesn't want to get attached to anyone, because all she wants to do is leave when she turns eighteen--But as days turn into weeks, Ruby meets new people, settles into her new home, and realizes; ''That sometimes, in order to save yourself, you've got to reach out to someone else..'' This was such a great book! It was beautifully written, and very heartwarming. At times it was emotional, and the the character's feelings came off the page and made you become fully apart of the novel. I absolutely loved this book, everything about it was just so great! I cannot wait to read more of Dessen's novels!!! 2010-030
Date published: 2010-04-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from awesome I really loved this book. I wish there was a sequel to it,because i would read it, hands down. I have recommended this book to my friends,because i love it so much.
Date published: 2010-02-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Lock And Key This book was really boring at first, there was no excitement, but as you read more and more into it, you find yourself unable to put the book down. it was beauty written.
Date published: 2009-12-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Heartbreakingly Beautiful Hello heart ache and pain, I'm looking forward to you reading you. I don't think any of the previous Dessen books I've read have dealt with such heavy topics. They've skimmed them in comparison to this book. Reading how Ruby was abandoned by her Mother and left to defend for herself was just horribly sad. And then being dropped into her sister's Cora's world after she also abandoned Ruby ten years prior, or so Ruby thinks. Thankfully Ruby won't have to 'inconvenience' her sister for too long as she's got a plan to escape, fortunately her plan is thwarted by Jaime and Cora's yapping small dog, Roscoe. It doesn't take too long before Ruby is realizing that this could be the second chance she'd always wanted; and perhaps her Mother didn't pass along all the facts. Despite the constant ache in my chest while I read this it's probably my second favorite Dessen book. I loved that we got even more heavy topics but it was just so moving to read Ruby get her second chance and to watch her begin to depend on others and trust that she can do more than she expected. Watch her get solid friendship and find love with Nate and actually take a stake in something more then just herself. There were lots of surprise moments; Dessen didn't make the ex-girlfriend a psychopath who hated the newbie, which was really refreshing It was really a beautiful story of family. A must read.
Date published: 2009-09-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Any teens/young adult should read As in all of her books, Dessen's story is about learning the facets of one's self and the process of moving on and letting go of the past. All of her books have the same storylines but she writes to keep your attention.
Date published: 2009-09-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from AH-MAZING ok, so this book is simply amazing, or at least i think it is. The story is about this girl, who is sooo independent and thinks she doesnt need help from anyone. Well when her mom dissapears, she is sent to live with her older sister and her family, and everything changes. She grows so much and comes to understand what she has to do in order to help herself. It shows us that even though we probably could take care of ourselves, we do need help from time to time.... I love this sentence in the back : "Ruby soon comes to realize that sometimes, in order to save yourself, you've got to reach out to someone else" So go out and get this book!!! :D
Date published: 2009-09-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The real meaning of family...heart warming and amazing. Lock and Key is certainly a powerful book. Right off the first page, it was already striking. I found this book to be an enjoyable read, a great experience. I enjoyed the characters a lot, becuase of each of their difference and contrast in personalities. Sarah Dessen has done it again. I definitley reccomend this book to anynoe and everone. It taught my the real meaning of "family" and "finding yourself..." - happy reading !
Date published: 2009-08-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from ILOVETHIS BOOK! I finished reading this book in 2 days! TWO DAYS! I swear that's the fastest I've ever read a 400 something paged book! Im not surprised that I finished it so fast. It was amazing, just like most of her books. When i was reading this book, I felt like I was the charactor of Ruby. She thought she didn't need help from anyone else, but obviously, she ended up needing or getting the most help. At the end she wasn't the person she thought she was. Most of the charactors in the book turned out to be completely different then how they THOUGHT they should be. I absoloutely recommend this book to everybody! Like the review title says: ILOVETHIS BOOK!
Date published: 2009-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Read! Loved this book! Love this author and the story was great!
Date published: 2009-07-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Perfect Reading Candy I enjoyed this book. Its was reading candy - cute and quick reads that require no thinking. The plot is not very original but it's still a cute read. I do plan on reading other Sarah Dessen books. This is a quick light read. Perfect for anyone trying to find something to pass the time.
Date published: 2009-06-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from one more thing... ohh i also forgot to mention that the down side to this book was that so many events seemed pointless and it seemed like it went on forever without much action... it took a while to pick up. what was good was how ruby's perspective changed from guarded and unfriendly to open and friendly throughout the book gradually, not changing all of a sudden. very smooth transition
Date published: 2009-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Pretty Good I wouldnt say Lock And Key was as great as some of Sarah's others such as This Lullaby, but it was still pretty good. The characters are awesome, as usual, especially Jamie. It's a really cute storyline and nobody turns out to be who they appear to be. that's the best part. the ending made me sad though!! :P
Date published: 2009-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome book (Y) I have high expectations when it comes to books; 1) It`s gotta be interesting 2) The cover should be eye-catching and 3) The end should be a happy ending :D (no cliffhangers =-=) Lock and Key was all 3. I loved it, I loved it, I loved it :) 5/5
Date published: 2009-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really Great I really like Sarah Dessen's novels and this one was no exception. I would definitely recommend this to first time Dessen readers and to others that have read her work before. Dessen is really great at delving into and portraying real teen problems and sometimes things don't always work out perfect, which is a perfect portrayal of real teen life issues. I can't wait to read my next Dessen novel and I strongly recommend them to anybody.
Date published: 2009-03-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic book! Sarah Dessen has done it again! There's a reason why she is my favourite author.....she's simply amazing! Her latest book, "Lock and Key" is about a seventeen-year-old girl called Ruby Cooper. Her mother has abandoned her, leaving her to fend for herself in their run-down home. But when social workers find out about the situation, Ruby is forced to live with her sister Cora - who she hasn't seen or heard from in ten years - and Cora's new wealthy husband. It's hard adjusting to a new family, a new house, and a new exclusive school. And then there's the handsome boy next door, Nate Cross. Nate seems to a perfect guy, except he has a few dark secrets of his own. Ruby's determined not to get attached to anyone, and plans to leave as soon as she turns eighteen. But leaving might turn out to be harder than she thought it would be. I found that the plot was really unique, and the characters very well developed. Dessen really brought Ruby to life, and her voice was flawless. I just couldn't put the book down. Simply amazing! If you liked any of her previous books, or if you're just looking for a funny yet perceptive new read, i highly recommend this book to you. Happy reading!
Date published: 2008-12-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Out of this world! I loved this book! It was just so intense, and heart- warming . I couldn't put the book down at all. If you're having doubts about buying this book, don't. Trust me,. this is an AWESOME book!
Date published: 2008-07-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of My Favourites! I loved this book... I have read all of Sarah Dessen's titles and I would definitely say this was one of my favourites! It kind of reminded me of the Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, just because the story lines have some similarities. However The Glass Castle is a memoir! Loved it!
Date published: 2008-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from You Won't Want to Stop Reading! EXCELLENT. When I first read the synopsis of this book I thought it sounded a little odd. Being left alone in a house and all that. But then as I got reading I really got into the book and I loved the characters who each played a unique role. Ruby went through many changes in the novel, she really learned that it was okay to open up to people. Cora and Jamie are great characters and they make a cute married couple. I just could not put this book down! It really gives you a different view of people around you, and it makes you stop to think , I wonder whats going on behind closed doors? I would definitly recommend this book, Sarah Dessen is a phenominal author!
Date published: 2008-06-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awsome I thought this book was absolutely amazing. This is one of my favorite books, and ever since I finished it I can't stop thinking about it. It made me realize that not everyone has it good. Like the people you see at school may look fine but when they go home they're getting beat for all you know. It didn't take me very long to finish this book, I couldn't put it down it was sooo good. . I really liked the characters Cora and Jamie. They seem like awesome people to hang out with. Anywayz I just thought it would be cool to write a review for this amazing book. If you haven't read it I suggest you do.
Date published: 2008-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dessen at her Best! I was lucky enough to get a copy of Lock and Key before the April 22nd release and fell absolutely in love with the book. Sarah Dessen once again shines, her characters real and complex. I couldn't put it down!
Date published: 2008-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb! Lock and Key (coming out on April 22) is the latest book from Sarah Dessen. I've been a Sarah Dessen fan for years, Just Listen's one of my favorite books so I was really excited to read this one. Ruby and her mother move around. Alot. And there are times when Ruby's mother just randomly takes off and disappears. But she always comes home to Ruby. Until the day thats he leaves and doesn't come back, leaving (an underage) Ruby alone for months. Of course Ruby can't hide the fact that she's living by herself forever. Eventually her landlord finds out and Ruby is forced, by the state, to live with her older sister, Cora, who abandonned her when she left for college...years ago. When Ruby goes to live with her sister, she finds Cora has altered her life, transformed it into a dream. Cora and her husband live in a great neighborhood, have great jobs and basically the opposite of what Ruby and her mother shared. At the beginning, Ruby worries that she'll be a burden on her sister, who she thinks never wanted her. Also, Ruby doesn't want to live in Cora's world. She was perfectly content on her own. However, after one unsuccessful escape attempt, Ruby finds herself actually living with her sister, and realizes that Cora's abandonnment wasn't all that it seemed to be. Slowly, Ruby becomes accustomed to her life with Cora. She gets a job and even starts to become friends with her good-looking neighbor Nate. I found Lock and Key to be an entrancing read. The characters had depth, even seemingly perfect Nate has his own ghosts. Sarah Dessen has created a moving story, with relatable characters that you grow to care about as the novel moves along. The story moved at a good pace, except I found it moved a tiny bit fast in the end. All in all Lock and Key is a great read, one that all Dessen fans should pick up! This is one of Sarah Dessen's best works yet, I'd say the best but I'm much too enamored with Just Listen. Remember to pick up Lock and Key from your local bookstore on April 22!! (If not now)!
Date published: 2008-04-13

From the Author

"I was born in 1970 in Illinois, but all the life I remember I’ve spent in Chapel Hill, NC. My parents were both professors at the University of North Carolina: my mom is a classicist (which means she knows everything you could ever imagine about myths, Latin, and words) and my dad teaches Shakespeare (which means I’d seen As You Like It about five times by the age of 18.) I have one brother, who is a musician and lives in California with his son and his wife, an artist who designed my personal website. (Thanks, Mariangeles!) "I’ve been writing, in one way or another, for as long as I can remember. I was always a big reader, mostly because my parents were. I used to get frustrated with my mom because she bought me books for Christmas when what I really wanted were the gifts my friends got, things like sweaters and jewelry. But I did love to read. When I was eight or nine my parents gave me an old manual typewriter and a little desk in the corner of our den, and I’d sit there and type up my stories. I was the kind of kid that people always sighed over and said, "She has such a wild imagination," which usually meant "I wish Sarah would try to stick to the truth." I have a tendency to embellish: I think it’s just a weakness of fiction writers. Once you learn how to make a story better, it’s hard not to do it all the time. "In high school, I was lucky enough to have a big group of girlfriends that have really inspired a lot of the stories in my books. I’m still close with my friends from that time, so it’s never very hard to put myself back into that place, that voice. Also it doesn’t hurt to still be living in my hometown, where it’s a given that I’ll bump into people I had homeroom with, or guys I had big crushes on, while I’m pumping gas or buying stamps. It makes it hard to leave high school behind entirely, which is a good or bad thing depending on what day you ask me. I attended college at UNC, where I studied creative writing and graduated with a degree in English. (Which means I can quote small parts of many Great Works. Comes in handy occasionally, like at cocktail parties.) I’d been on the five-and-a-half year college plan, and when I graduated my parents were hoping I’d settle down and get a Real Job so they could stop worrying about me. But instead of doing the whole resume/pantyhose thing, I decided to stick to my job waiting tables at the world famous Flying Burrito Restaurant and try to publish a novel. At the time, I had only one very bad book I’d written my senior year of college and the beginnings of another one. Luckily, my family was supportive and I spent a few years living in a ramshackle little house where I wrote during the day and did the restaurant thing at night. "Three years after graduating, I sold my first book, That Summer, but it wasn’t until a year after that that I got offered a teaching job and left waitressing for good. I still miss it sometimes, though. It was a great job for a writer. Endless conversations to eavesdrop, tons of material, and fast money without ever taking work home. Plus, free Mexican food, the best perk of all. Now, I’ve published four books, all for young adults. I never really intended to be YA writer, but the second book I showed my agent she thought had a strong teenage voice, so she sent it off to an editor at Orchard Books, who bought it. Even though it was in a way accidental, I’ve found that writing for teens suits me. I do short stories, and other novels, that are for an older audience, but again and again I am brought back to the stories of high school. Maybe it’s because so much happened to me then that I’m not finished yet telling everything. My senior quote was from Pink Floyd (okay, I was a bit of a burnout---I spent a lot of time in the parking lot, whatever, let’s move on) and it pretty much summed up my future, although I didn’t know it at the time. It was: "The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say." It turns out that I did. "The books I read when I was teenager, the good ones anyway, have stuck more in my mind than anything since. I still love books, but while I couldn’t tell you complete plots of novels I read even six months ago, I do remember even the smallest descriptive details from Lois Lowry’s A Summer to Die or Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. I think it was because back then books were still somewhat new to me, and when I found an author who seemed to say just what I was feeling, it really struck me and resonated. I hope that my books do that for the people who read them: I think it’s the best thing to which any writer can aspire. Now, I teach writing at UNC-Chapel Hill, where I’m lucky enough to see my students find their own voice, the way I did in the same program there not so long ago. Teaching is great for me, because I get to show people how writing can really change the way you see not only yourself but the world. I’ve found in my own life that if my writing isn’t going well, not much else will. It is the one constant, the key to everything else. "As far as my other life, my non-writing life, I live in the country with my husband, some lizards, and two dogs who are completely spoiled and rule me completely. I like to work in my garden---although I have not yet perfected the art of keeping everything alive----and, in my weaker moments, shop. I have a bit of an addiction to the Gap clearance rack, to be honest. I have this strange need to buy huge quantities of black pants. How many pairs of black pants does one person need? (Obviously for me, the answer is 11 and counting. But I digress.) What else can I tell you? I love Starbucks mochas but they make me way hyper. I subscribe to too many magazines. I make a mean bean salad. I could go on, but the truth is, my books are much more exciting than I am, and that’s a good thing. It’s always more fun to make stuff up anyway."

Read from the Book

CHAPTER ONE "And finally," Jamie said as he pushed the door open, "we come to the main event. Your room."I was braced for pink. Ruffles or quilting, or maybe even appliqué. Which was probably kind of unfair, but then again, I didn't know my sister anymore, much less her decorating style. With total strangers, it had always been my policy to expect the worst. Usually they—and those that you knew best, for that matter—did not disappoint.Instead, the first thing I saw was green. A large, high window, on the other side of which were tall trees, separating the huge backyard from that of the house that backed up to it. Everything was big about where my sister and her husband, Jamie, lived—from the homes to the cars to the stone fence you saw first thing when you pulled into the neighborhood itself, made up of boulders that looked too enormous to ever be moved. It was like Stonehenge, but suburban. So weird.It was only as I thought this that I realized we were all still standing there in the hallway, backed up like a traffic jam. At some point Jamie, who had been leading this little tour, had stepped aside, leaving me in the doorway. Clearly, they wanted me to step in first. So I did.The room was, yes, big, with cream-colored walls. There were three other windows beneath the big one I'd first seen, although they each were covered with thin venetian blinds. To the right, I saw a double bed with a yellow comforter and matching pillows, a white blanket folded over the foot. There was a small desk, too, a chair tucked under it. The ceiling slanted on either side, meeting in a flat strip in the middle, where there was a square skylight, also covered with a venetian blind—a little square one, clearly custom made to fit. It was so matchy-matchy and odd that for a moment, I found myself just staring up at it, as if this was actually the weirdest thing about that day."So, you've got your own bathroom," Jamie said, stepping around me, his feet making soft thuds on the carpet, which was of course spotless. In fact, the whole room smelled like paint and new carpet, just like the rest of the house. I wondered how long ago they had moved in—a month, six months? "Right through this door. And the closet is in here, too. Weird, right? Ours is the same way. When we were building, Cora claimed it meant she would get ready faster. A theory which has yet to be proved out, I might add."Then he smiled at me, and again I tried to force a smile back. Who was this odd creature, my brother-in-law—a term that seemed oddly fitting, considering the circumstances—in his mountain-bike T-shirt, jeans and funky expensive sneakers, cracking jokes in an obvious effort to ease the tension of an incredibly awkward situation? I had no idea, other than he had to be the very last person I would have expected to end up with my sister, who was so uptight she wasn't even pretending to smile at his attempts. At least I was trying.Not Cora. She was just standing in the doorway, barely over the threshold, arms crossed over her chest. She had on a sleeveless sweater—even though it was mid-October, the house was beyond cozy, almost hot—and I could see the definition of her biceps and triceps, every muscle seemingly tensed, the same way they had been when she'd walked into the meeting room at Poplar House two hours earlier. Then, too, it seemed like Jamie had done all the talking, both to Shayna, the head counselor, and to me while Cora remained quiet. Still, every now and again, I could feel her eyes on me, steady, as if she was studying my features, committing me to memory, or maybe just trying to figure out if there was any part of me she recognized at all.So Cora had a husband, I'd thought, staring at them as we'd sat across from each other, Shayna shuffling papers between us. I wondered if they'd had a fancy wedding, with her in a big white dress, or if they'd just eloped after she'd told him she had no family to speak of. Left to her own devices, this was the story I was sure she preferred— that she'd just sprouted, all on her own, neither connected nor indebted to anyone else at all."Thermostat's out in the hallway if you need to adjust it," Jamie was saying now. "Personally, I like a bit of a chill to the air, but your sister prefers it to be sweltering. So even if you turn it down, she'll most likely jack it back up within moments."Again he smiled, and I did the same. God, this was exhausting. I felt Cora shift in the doorway, but again she didn't say anything."Oh!" Jamie said, clapping his hands. "Almost forgot. The best part." He walked over to the window in the center of the wall, reaching down beneath the blind. It wasn't until he was stepping back and it was opening that I realized it was, in fact, a door. Within moments, I smelled cold air. "Come check this out."I fought the urge to look back at Cora again as I took a step, then one more, feeling my feet sink into the carpet, following him over the threshold onto a small balcony. He was standing by the railing, and I joined him, both of us looking down at the backyard. When I'd first seen it from the kitchen, I'd noticed just the basics: grass, a shed, the big patio with a grill at one end. Now, though, I could see there were rocks laid out in the grass in an oval shape, obviously deliberately, and again, I thought of Stonehenge. What was it with these rich people, a druid fixation?"It's gonna be a pond," Jamie told me, as if I'd said this out loud."A pond?" I said."Total ecosystem," he said. "Thirty-by-twenty and lined, all natural, with a waterfall. And fish. Cool, huh?"Again, I felt him look at me, expectant. "Yeah," I said, because I was a guest here. "Sounds great." ÂHe laughed. "Hear that, Cor? She doesn't think I'm crazy." ÂI looked down at the circle again, then back at my sister. She'd come into the room, although not that far, and still had her arms crossed over her chest as she stood there, watching us. For a moment, our eyes met, and I wondered how on earth I'd ended up here, the last place I knew either one of us wanted me to be. Then she opened her mouth to speak for the first time since we'd pulled up in the driveway and all this, whatever it was, began."It's cold," she said. "You should come inside." ÂBefore one o'clock that afternoon, when she showed up to claim me, I hadn't seen my sister in ten years. I didn't know where she lived, what she was doing, or even who she was. I didn't care, either. There had been a time when Cora was part of my life, but that time was over, simple as that. Or so I'd thought, until the Honeycutts showed up one random Tuesday and everything changed.The Honeycutts owned the little yellow farmhouse where my mom and I had been living for about a year. Before that, we'd had an apartment at the Lakeview Chalets, the run-down complex just behind the mall. There, we'd shared a one-bedroom, our only window looking out over the back entrance to the J&K Cafeteria, where there was always at least one employee in a hairnet sitting outside smoking, perched on an overturned milk crate. Running alongside the complex was a stream that you didn't even notice until there was a big rain and it rose, overflowing its nonexistent banks and flooding everything, which happened at least two or three times a year. Since we were on the top floor, we were spared the water itself, but the smell of the mildew from the lower apartments permeated everything, and God only knew what kind of mold was in the walls. Suffice to say I had a cold for two years straight. That was the first thing I noticed about the yellow house: I could breathe there.It was different in other ways, too. Like the fact that it was a house, and not an apartment in a complex or over someone's garage. I'd grown used to the sound of neighbors on the other side of a wall, but the yellow house sat in the center of a big field, framed by two oak trees. There was another house, off to the left, but it was visible only by flashes of roof you glimpsed through the trees—for all intents and purposes, we were alone. Which was just the way we liked it.My mom wasn't much of a people person. In certain situations—say, if you were buying, for instance—she could be very friendly. And if you put her within five hundred feet of a man who would treat her like shit, she'd find him and be making nice before you could stop her, and I knew, because I had tried. But interacting with the majority of the population (cashiers, school administrators, bosses, ex-boyfriends) was not something she engaged in unless absolutely necessary, and then, with great reluctance.Which was why it was lucky that she had me. For as long as I could remember, I'd been the buffer system. The go-between, my mother's ambassador to the world. Whenever we pulled up at the store and she needed a Diet Coke but was too hungover to go in herself, or she spied a neighbor coming who wanted to complain about her late-night banging around again, or the Jehovah's Witnesses came to the door, it was always the same. "Ruby," she'd say, in her tired voice, pressing either her glass or her hand to her forehead. "Talk to the people, would you?"And I would. I'd chat with the girl behind the counter as I waited for my change, nod as the neighbor again threatened to call the super, ignored the proffered literature as I firmly shut the door in the Jehovah's faces. I was the first line of defense, always ready with an explanation or a bit of spin. "She's at the bank right now," I'd tell the landlord, even as she snored on the couch on the other side of the half-closed door. "She's just outside, talking to a delivery," I'd assure her boss so he'd release her bags for the day to me, while she smoked a much-needed cigarette in the freight area and tried to calm her shaking hands. And finally, the biggest lie of all: "Of course she's still living here. She's just working a lot," which is what I'd told the sheriff that day when I'd been called out of fourth period and found him waiting for me. That time, though, all the spin in the world didn't work. I talked to the people, just like she'd always asked, but they weren't listening.That first day, though, when my mom and I pulled up in front of the yellow house, things were okay. Sure, we'd left our apartment with the usual drama—owing back rent, the super lurking around, watching us so carefully that we had to pack the car over a series of days, adding a few things each time we went to the store or to work. I'd gotten used to this, though, the same way I'd adjusted to us rarely if ever having a phone, and if we did, having it listed under another name. Ditto with my school paperwork, which my mom often filled out with a fake address, as she was convinced that creditors and old landlords would track us down that way. For a long time, I thought this was the way everyone lived. When I got old enough to realize otherwise, it was already habit, and anything else would have felt strange.Inside, the yellow house was sort of odd. The kitchen was the biggest room, and everything was lined up against one wall: cabinets, appliances, shelves. Against another wall was a huge propane heater, which in cold weather worked hard to heat the whole house, whooshing to life with a heavy sigh. The only bathroom was off the kitchen, poking out with no insulated walls—my mom said it must have been added on; there'd probably been an outhouse, initially—which made for some cold mornings until you got the hot water blasting and the steam heated things up. The living room was small, the walls covered with dark fake-wood paneling. Even at high noon, you needed a light on to see your hand in front of your face. My mother, of course, loved the dimness and usually pulled the shades shut, as well. I'd come home to find her on the couch, cigarette dangling from one hand, the glow from the TV flashing across her face in bursts. Outside, the sun might be shining, the entire world bright, but in our house, it could always be late night, my mother's favorite time of day. In the old one-bedroom apartment, I was accustomed to sometimes being awoken from a dead sleep, her lips close to my ear as she asked me to move out onto the couch, please, honey. As I went, groggy and discombobulated, I'd do my best not to notice whoever slipped back in the door behind her. At the yellow house, though, I got my own room. It was small, with a tiny closet and only one window, as well as orange carpet and those same dark walls, but I had a door to shut, and it was all mine. It made me feel like we'd stay longer than a couple of months, that things would be better here. In the end, though, only one of these things turned out to be true.I first met the Honeycutts three days after we moved in. It was early afternoon, and we were getting ready to leave for work when a green pickup truck came up the driveway. A man was driving, a woman in the passenger seat beside him. Â"Mom," I called out to my mother, who was in the bedroom getting dressed. "Someone's here." She sighed, sounding annoyed. My mother was at her worst just before going to work, petulant like a child. "Who is it?""I don't know," I said, watching as the couple—he in jeans and a denim work shirt, she wearing slacks and a printed top—started to make their way to the house. "But they're about to knock on the door.""Oh, Ruby." She sighed again. "Just talk to them, would you?"The first thing I noticed about the Honeycutts was that they were instantly friendly, the kind of people my mother couldn't stand. They were both beaming when I opened the door, and when they saw me, they smiled even wider."Well, look at you!" the woman said, as if I'd done something precious just by existing. She herself resembled a gnome, with her small features and halo of white curls, like something made to put on a shelf. "Hello there!"I nodded, my standard response to all door knockers. Unnecessary verbals only encouraged them, or so I'd learned. "Can I help you?"The man blinked. "Ronnie Honeycutt," he said, extending his hand. "This is my wife, Alice. And you are?"I glanced in the direction of my mother's room. While usually she banged around a lot while getting ready—drawers slamming, grumbling to herself—now, of course, she was dead silent. Looking back at the couple, I decided they probably weren't Jehovah's but were definitely peddling something. "Sorry," I said, beginning my patented firm shut of the door, "but we're not—""Oh, honey, it's okay!" Alice said. She looked at her husband. "Stranger danger," she explained. "They teach it in school.""Stranger what?" Ronnie said."We're your landlords," she told me. "We just dropped by to say hello and make sure you got moved in all right."Landlords, I thought. That was even worse than Witnesses. Instinctively, I eased the door shut a bit more, wedging my foot against it. "We're fine," I told them."Is your mom around?" Ronnie asked as Alice shifted her weight, trying to see into the kitchen behind me.I adjusted myself accordingly, blocking her view, before saying, "Actually, she's—""Right here," I heard my mother say, and then she was crossing the living room toward us, pulling her hair back with one hand. She had on jeans, her boots, and a white tank top, and despite the fact that she'd just woken up about twenty minutes earlier, I had to admit she looked pretty good. Once, my mother had been a great beauty, and occasionally you could still get a glimpse of the girl she had been—if the light was right, or she'd had a decent night's sleep, or, like me, you were just wistful enough to look for it..

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