Lock and Key is the only Sarah Dessen book that I had not read until very recently. When I partnered with Penguin Random House to take part in their #ReadADessen campaign, it was my opportunity to finally read Lock and Key. Dessen’s novels can sometimes carry similar themes, although often executed differently, that mark her books distinctly from the rest of Young Adult literature. For once, I chose to dive into Lock and Key without reading the summary on the back cover or perusing through Goodreads reviews.
Going in blind made Lock and Key a very surprising read for me. Unless I seek it out, I rarely come across novels that are so centered on family. Of course, Dessen gives us a good dose of romance in this novel, but I hadn’t expected to meet a character like Ruby and experience her complex relationships, especially with her sister and mother.
When looking at contemporary YA fiction, there sometimes isn’t quite an emphasis on family. Either they’re background players, around because they’re needed, but ultimately there to support the main characters and not necessarily play a vital part in their stories. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se. Adolescence is the time when people become more independent and experience life on their own. However, it’s not fair to disregard the connection one has with family whether it has been strong or tenuous, like Ruby’s with her sister. It’s those connections that can affect one’s outlook on life, and in the case for many young women, their relationships with a mother or sister are cornerstones of growing up. These depictions of sisterhood are what add a touching and authentic layer to novels both new – like Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – and old – like Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women.
As much as I am swept away by romance and a swoon-worthy love interest, more diverse examples of loving and nurturing relationships need representation, whether they are friendships or familial. The Young Adult genre surely has bookshelves full of them, but more need to be spotlighted. Honestly, Hollywood needs to be paying better attention to these books. We can’t be one and done with The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Look at the acclaim YA adaptations like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Me, Earl and the Dying Girl receive – all movies that showcase the coming of age experience without the need of an “end of the world” scenario or an overly trite love triangle. Then, there is the recent phenomenon of 13 Reasons Why. Although tackling darker subject matter, the Netflix series started conversations on the real-life struggles of teens who face bullying, rape and suicide.
It all comes down to this question: Why do we have over 10 Nicholas Sparks movies, but only one Sarah Dessen movie (which smashed two very different books together to make a mess of a movie)?
Young adults need exposure to array of stories that enlighten audiences to the experiences of the many different young people of the world. As fun as superheroes are and as thought-provoking as a mind-bending dystopia can be, everyday stories of everyday teens from all walks of life have the capacity to be as fun and thought-provoking, sometimes even more so. Many authors have proved this with their books. Sarah Dessen has done it with 12 and likely with her 13th novel, Once and For All.
As part of the #ReadADessen campaign, you can enter win a full set of Sarah Dessen’s novels. Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below and learn more about her upcoming book, Once and For All.
Enter for a chance to win one (1) set of Sarah Dessen’s books in paperback (ARV: $132.00).
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on April 17, 2017 and 12:00 AM on May 29, 2017. Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about June 1, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.
ABOUT ONCE AND FOR ALL
From Sarah Dessen, the beloved New York Times bestselling author of SAINT ANYTHING and JUST LISTEN, comes a new novel set in the world of wedding planning!
Is it really better to have loved and lost? Louna’s summer job is to help brides plan their perfect day, even though she stopped believing in happily-ever-after when her first love ended tragically. But charming girl-magnet Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged now that he’s met the one he really wants. Maybe Louna’s second chance is standing right in front of her.
Sarah Dessen’s many fans will adore this latest novel, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story with humor, romance, and an ending that is so much more than happily-ever-after.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah Dessen is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen novels for teens, which have received numerous awards and rave reviews. Her books have been published in over thirty countries and have sold millions of copies worldwide. She is the recipient of the 2017 Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association for outstanding contribution to young adult literature for her novels: Keeping the Moon, Dreamland, This Lullaby, The Truth about Forever, Just Listen, Along for the Ride, and What Happened to Goodbye. Her newest novel, Once and for All, will be released in June 2017. An NC native, she currently lives in Chapel Hill with her family.