Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
Ruby's mom ran off a couple of months ago but Ruby has managed to hide that from her friends and is still living in her little yellow house. When social services finds out that Ruby is living alone, they contact her older sister, Cora. Cora left home about 10 years ago and Ruby hasn't heard from her since. Cora and her husband live in a big house in a beautiful neighborhood. Ruby has her own bedroom, new designer clothes, and admission into a posh private school. But how will Ruby connect with a sister who abandoned her when Ruby needed her the most?
Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors. She always manages to write about serious topics with style and humor. Lock and Key is no exception. Ruby is immediately likable because she is so vulnerable. She carries her key to the little yellow house on a chain around her neck, afraid that she'll have to move back in and away from Cora. Cora has her own issues with the past and it's her laid-back, friendly husband who helps reforge the bond between the sisters. I've never been a latchkey kid and don't know what it's like to come home to an empty house but Dessen made it easy for me to understand Ruby's loneliness. This book is, at times, heartbreaking, but what makes it wonderful is watching Ruby as she learns what it's like to live with a loving family.
If you like Sarah Dessen's writing, you might also like Sweethearts by Sara Zarr.