Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

lockandkey-newInformation: Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen was published in 2008 by Viking’s Children’s Books. ISBN: 067001088X

Plot Summary: Lock and Key is about seventeen year old Ruby, who ends up living with her older sister and her husband because Ruby’s mother has disappeared again. Ruby thought she was doing well, living on her own in their trash filled house, but once the landlords found out her mom was gone, no one would believe her. Now Ruby has to get used to living with his sister’s rules that require her to go to school and follow curfew. Not used to being taken care of, Ruby and her sister clash constantly. But once Ruby realizes her mom isn’t planning on coming back to get her, Ruby discovers family secrets that her mother never intended for her to know.

Critical Evaluation: This novel is a prime example of how hard it is for some to ask for help. Ruby is convinced she is fine living on her own and it isn’t until she sees someone in the same situation, that she finally realizes how much help she actually needed. Sarah Dessen writes heartfelt literature for teens, addressing their deepest vulnerabilities. Lock and Key is a relatable story for anyone struggling with feeling on their own or unable to ask for help.

Reader’s Annotation: After being forced to move in with her sister, Ruby now has to adjust to being taken care of. But when one of her new neighbors is going through a hard time with his family, she realizes just how important it is to ask for help.

Author’s Information: Sarah Dessen is one of the most popular writers for young adults. She is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of many novels, which have received numerous awards and rave reviews, and have sold more than nine million copies. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with her husband, Jay, and their daughter, Sasha Clementine. Visit her online at www.sarahdessen.com (Penguin Books).

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Chick Lit Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Curriculum Ties: (Florida State Curriculum Standards): Understanding Key Literary Ideas

Book Talk Ideas:

  • Why was it so hard for Ruby and Nate to ask for help? Were they for different reasons?
  • What do you think happened when Ruby’s mom got the letter? Do you think it would be healthy for Ruby to confront her mom?

Reading Level/ Age Interest: Grades 9-12 and Ages 15-18

Challenge Issues: Language, Drinking, Drugs

Challenge Defense File:

Selection Policy

The System will select and maintain a comprehensive collection of print, non-print, audio visual and electronically accessed materials to meet the informational, educational, and recreational needs of the citizens of Sarasota County. The System will strive to offer wide ranging collections that meet the various ages, interests, educational levels, and cultural backgrounds of all members of the community and will provide collections through which an individual may explore all points of view and issues of interest. In making selections, the library staff will do so based upon principle rather than personal opinion, reason rather than prejudice, and judgment rather than censorship. Furthermore, staff will be responsive to public demand for materials of contemporary significance and interest, while balancing this with the need to collect and preserve materials of permanent value. While library staff makes material selections based upon the tenet of one system, one collection, selectors recognize the distinct characteristics and needs of the populace that each library services. Community profiles are used to guide selectors in efforts to develop special collections and to meet the unique patron needs within each library.

The ultimate responsibility for selection materials rests with the General Manager of Libraries and the Management Team, who in turn delegates selection responsibilities to the Collection Development Librarians (Sarasota County Policy).  


Dessen, S. (2008). Lock and Key. New York, New York: Viking’s Children’s Books. Sarah Dessen is one of the most popular authors for young adults. She writes specifically for young adults, by addressing their deepest problems and issues. Lock and Key explores the vulnerability of asking for help and having the responsibility of being an adult before one is ready to.

Other recommendations like this book include:North of Beautiful by Justina Chen, Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson, and Sweethearts by Sara Zarr.

Active Listening Skills

  • Remain calm
  • Listen thoughtfully and carefully to any arguments for the collection
  • Engage in a discussion that considers every concern, even if you do not agree


  • Iowa High School Book Award Nominee (2011)
  • Missouri Gateway Readers Award Nominee (2011)

Reconsideration Form


Selection Tools:

Why I chose this book:

I chose this book because it’s a compelling read with a little bit mystery mixed in with the drama and the romance. I think this novel addresses the important needs for high school teenagers.


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