by Karen Kingsbury
Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010
New York Times Bestselling writer Karen Kingsbury has weaved another compelling, inspirational story in "Unlocked." Holden Harris is an eighteen-year old locked inside himself. When he was three, he withdrew into his own autistic world, a world his mother Tracy has been trying desperately to release him from. Autistic children like routine. Part of Holden's routine is to watch the same movie every day after school - a home movie that shows him playing with his best friend from childhood - a beautiful little girl named Ella.
When Ella meets him again in their senior year of high school, she doesn't remember him but something about those blue eyes seems so familiar. One thing she does know is that he loves music and she advocates for him to be able to listen in on her music/drama class. That act of kindness will open the door to an eventual miracle.
Kingsbury has also included a secondary plot about bullying including a teen suicide. This is a topic that has had a great deal of media attention lately and she handles it well and with compassion.
As I read this book, I felt somewhat disheartened. It is a wonderful story and I do believe in miracles, but so many children today have autism and the vast majority of them won't ever get a miracle. It really seemed like a great deal of wishful thinking (although that is certainly allowed in fiction.) It wasn't until I read the "Reader Letter" at the conclusion of the book that I discovered that it was loosely based on a real-life autistic miracle. Music had brought this young man out of his inner world and given him back to his family. That "Reader Letter" made me cry more than the book!
"Unlocked" is a quick read, great when you just want to lose yourself in a story. It will keep you turning pages, eager to find out what happens. It is, in turns, both extremely painful and incredibly heartwarming. In the end, God conquers and triumphs over all.