Welcome to another edition of Sundays with Sarah! It’s time we talk about Dessen’s 8th book!
“It’s a lot easier to be lost than found. It’s the reason we’re always searching and rarely discovered–so many locks not enough keys.”
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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 an adorable boy next door. Can Ruby learn to open her heart and let him in?
Feelings: Let’s get straight to it. I really liked this book. This book felt really unique; I never had an “I’ve heard this story before” kind of moment. One thing that Dessen tackles really well are the big, very real issues. The main one this story focuses on is homelessness and difficult parent-child relationships, including abandonment and abuse. We also learned a lot about trust, second chances, and allowing ourselves to succeed. I really felt like our main character Ruby went full circle. She starts out needing help, she fights it, she learns to accept it, she learns to notice when others need help, she learns how to give help.
Issues: Once again, I wasn’t fully satisfied by the ending. I say “once again” because that’s a common thread between me and Dessen’s books. We spend so much time building tension and conflict, then it’s just over and eh sure…a sprinkle of resolution. Also, I got a little worried when during Ruby’s first night with Jamie and Cora, she meets “the boy”. But it really wasn’t all about him, which I was glad for. Ruby had a lot of stuff to tackle before getting all moony and Juney.
Characters: I love Dessen’s little “Easter eggs”, or small references to her other characters from previous books. This book had more than usual and I’m all over it! This was one of the main reasons that I wanted to read her books right after each other, because I didn’t want to miss these references. We saw Owen and Annabel, Kristy and Bert, as well as a reference to Kiki Sparks and an appearance from Barbara Starr. Rogerson was there, too, but he can go away.
Ruby and Nate are a great duo. They both have their own issues and baggage, they both have secrets, and they both work through them in a natural way. (Meaning, they don’t heavily rely on each other to survive.) Ruby reads like such a different main, female character from Dessen’s other books and Nate is a primetime love interest. He doesn’t just swoop in and rescue Ruby, but HE needs HER just as much as it’s the other way around. I found myself just really appreciating this story from start to finish.
As usual, Dessen’s side characters are great. Jamie and Cora added a lot of balance and stability to the storyline and I loved them.
Final thoughts: This wasn’t my favorite Dessen book, but I still really enjoyed it. As usual, I’d highly recommend her books if you’re looking for a summertime read that has some depth. She doesn’t write fluff pieces, that’s for sure! This book in particular had a lot of spirit and realness as the characters discover the meanings of friendship and family. I’d definitely recommend!
Pick this up if you liked:
My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
On the Fence by Kasie West
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Goodreads rating: 4.02/5
Amazon.com rating: 4.3/5
My rating: 4.25/5
Happy reading! – Caitlyn