Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury is a story about a boy living with Autism, but it is so much more than that. It’s a story about loving people who are different from you. It’s a story about friendship, loss, reconnecting and if you look closely, it’s also about forgiveness. Unlocked is a story that gives hope where parents find little. It’s a story about encouragement, changing hearts, and making a difference. It’s a story about faith.
Holden Harris is 18 years old and living with Autism. He was perfectly healthy when he was three year old. He was happy and his future looked bright. His friend Ella was also three. Their parents were the best of friends so Holden and Ella spent a lot of time together during those early years. Their parents even dreamed about a day when Holden and Ella might date. Maybe they would grow up, go to the Prom together, and even marry someday.
Then, Dan and Tracy Harris’ world changed. Holden started withdrawing into his own world, an inner world where noone could reach him. No matter how hard Dan and Tracy tried, Holden continued to slip away until he became unresponsive to them. He became non-communicative.
Holden’s diagnosis was hard on everyone who loved him. Ella’s parents responded in such a way that separated Holden and Ella . . . maybe forever. Dan and Tracy’s marriage changed in such a way that would challenge even the most devoted couples.
15 years pass and Holden is now in high school. He only communicates through PECS cards but those are new to him. He exhibits behaviors that puzzle his mother, his teacher, and his therapists. Is he progressing or regressing? Will he someday be unlocked and released from his private world and reenter the world of those who love him?
Holden loves music. One of the girls in the drama class pushes the teacher to allow Holden to sit in the room during rehearsals for the Spring play, Beauty and the Beast. She has noticed the boy in the hallways . . . perhaps being bullied . . . by her own boyfriend, but there is something about him, something about his deep blue eyes, like maybe she should know him somehow.
Ella grew up to be a popular girl with popular friends. That was true until she realizes the truth, the way her friends treat others who are “different.” They bully kids like Michael Schwartz who plays the flute in the band. Michael’s story is one that will rip your heart into a million pieces.
Unlocked is a story about Autism, friendship, hope, and all the things mentioned in the first paragraph here. It is also a story about bullying and teen suicide. Unlocked is an inspirational read about hard things in life. It’s a story about a deep faith in a God who loves us through all the hard things . . . and sometimes He grants us a miracle.
I enjoyed the book. It was an inspirational read but it was also a hard one at times. Autism, bullying, and suicide are themes that have affected me personally. At first, I wondered if Karen might have assumed too much when telling parts of Holden’s story from his own point of view, but after asking my own cousin who is currently raising a boy with Autism and several other moms and teachers of autistic children, they all agree that Karen does a fantastic job of writing the character and private personality of those living with Autism. I learned a lot about the minds and thought processes of my precious relative and a few friends with Autism. At the end of the story, Karen writes a letter to the reader which explains how she learned about Autism. I think Unlocked is a great book for people who know little about it but want to gain a deeper understanding.
Some stories were left open. I’m wondering how some of them turn out. Perhaps a sequel in the future? I”m new to Karen Kingsbury books but I know she has written several series novels so maybe there will be more to this one. I hope so because if there is, I’ll be one of the first to read it.
I have several other Karen Kingsbury books sitting right beside me to read and review. Sign up for email updates if you look forward to more Karen Kingsbury book reviews in the future. I’ve only read two so I have a lot of reading to do. 🙂