Saturday, July 12, 2014

More About Us, and Some YA

It occurs to me that most of you who are reading this probably know who I am, but just in case some complete strangers start following this blog, I should tell you a bit more about me and my little tribe.

Here we are: that's my husband Jack, myself (Kristen), Emma (16), Gabe (13), Blythe (10), Clara (8), and Henry (5). For the curious, yes, they are all our natural born children. Yes, we know how and why babies arrive. Yes, we love having a big family. Yes, we are done now! In this photo we are standing behind the dam that has done a tremendous job this summer in keeping the Chena River from flooding our fair city.

Jack is a planner with a local economic development group while I, naturally, am an elementary school librarian. Emma is a serious classical ballet dancer, Gabe plays competitive soccer, and they both like running. The three littles all play soccer as well. Blythe is following in Emma's footsteps with ballet, and Clara loves gymnastics. Henry will start playing hockey this year. They are all pretty good students, and yes, they all do love to read. We have read to them since babyhood, we have always haunted the public library, and I would have been surprised if any of them didn't love to read, although it took a while for Gabe to become interested in anything but comic books. Outside of my own reading and writing obsessions, I like to run, bike, play volleyball, and do archery. I used to do scrapbooking, but once the third kid arrived I pretty much ran out of time for that. Jack runs and bikes as well, and plays hockey when he can. He's also really handy with carpentry and car repair, which are wonderful talents to have! We tend to be active in our church, but since we have just started attending a new one, we aren't too involved yet. Which may be just as well, because our lives are pretty busy anyway.

That's us in a nutshell. Obviously our lives are much more complicated than I can possibly tell you here. After all, there are five kids doing different things, and all the logistics involved occasionally require the precision and planning of running a small country. But life is mostly good, and to the casual observer, probably quite boring. So I won't numb you with endless details of our day to day life, but I will share interesting tidbits that happen.

Today I am reviewing a young adult novel by Sarah Dessen, called "Lock and Key." Sarah Dessen is rather the queen of the teen "relationship" novel. You could never classify her books as straight romance; there is always some more serious element involved, whether it might be domestic violence, date rape, or drug abuse. The first Sarah Dessen book I read was "Just Listen," and I loved it, but then "Dreamland" left me cold. I didn't even read the whole thing. Knowing her popularity in the YA world, and on recommendation from my daughter, I agreed to read "Lock and Key."

Dessen's characters are so engaging. They are human; they make mistakes, they hurt others and sometimes themselves, they are flawed and utterly human. Ruby Cooper has had a rough life, and her first interest is in protecting herself. It's not until her mom abandons her, and she lands in the care of Cora, her older sister, that she is finally able to let her guard down and care about someone besides herself. She realizes that even those with seemingly perfect lives have problems, as exemplified by Nate, who is quite literally the boy next door. He is gorgeous, smart and popular and seems to have the world at his feet, but like Ruby, he has secrets. As you might imagine, there is a bit of a romance with Nate, but it's certainly not the focus of the story.

Ruby eventually learns that the sister she thought had simply walked away had been trying to track her down for years, and she and Cora are able to repair the rift between them. When her missing Mom is located, Ruby is unsure whether she wants to reconnect with her. She is bitter since discovering how hard her Mom worked to keep her away from Cora. She evolves from survival mode to the point where she is th one reaching out to others in need. She gathers in a small and eclectic circle of true family and friends.

An interesting side to the story is Ruby's year-long English thesis assignment where she has to define one word. The word she draws is "family," which is difficult for her, given the truly dysfunctional nature of her own. Over the course of the school year, she asks people to define what family means to her, and she gathers pictures and images that represent family. By the end of the story she has arrived at a definition of her own that encompasses the family and friends she has come to hold dear.

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