When I first started listening to “Lock and Key,” I had to keep reminding myself that this was a different book from “After.” Both novels are read by Rebecca Soler and both start out with a female protagonist facing some difficult life situations and both being abandoned by their mothers.
And while “Lock and Key” is probably a bit tamer than “After,” it still features a female protagonist facing some major life choices, changes and challenges to her assumptions.
Ruby is a seventeen-year-old girl who comes home from school one day to find her mother has vanished. It’s nothing new for Ruby to not run into her mom for a few days, due to her mom’s working odd hours and sleeping for extended periods of time, but after a few days Ruby realizes she’s been abandoned. Hoping to keep things going until she turns 18, Ruby is found by her landlords to be living alone in squalor with the utilities turned off at various points. Ruby is sent by social services to live with her older, married sister Cora and her husband Jamie. Ruby lost touch with Cora years ago when Cora headed off to college, receiving only an invitation to her college graduation. Rudy assumes that Cora left she and their mother behind and created her own new life.
At first, Ruby tries to rebel against the new life she’s been given. She’s enrolled in a private, expensive school, far from her old friends and on-again/off-again drug dealer boyfriend. Ruby meets the boy next door while trying to run away on the first night and reluctantly accepts rides to school with him to avoid having to get up earlier to catch the bus. Rudy also resists wanting to put down roots or re-establish her relationship with her sister since she figures she’ll be out on her own in a few months anyway.
But along the way, Ruby is assigned a school project to define the world family and the novel charts her grappling with the term and how it impacts her life. “Lock and Key” has its serious moments, is packed with teen angst and has some humorous characters that come into Ruby’s life. But it never goes for the cliche or predictable and comes across with a real feel of authenticity from not only Ruby but the rest of the characters and situations.