Unlocked: A Love Story

by Karen Kingsbury

Paperback, 2015



Call number



Zondervan (2015), Edition: Reprint, 336 pages


Holden Harris is an autistic eighteen-year-old who is bullied at school. Ella Reynolds is the head cheerleader who befriends Holden but has problems of her own at home.

User reviews

LibraryThing member ChicGeekGirl21
I listened to Unlocked on CD during a recent car trip, and I have to say that based on this book alone, Karen Kingsbury is not for me. I found the novel to be repetitive, cloying, and potentially filled with inaccurate information about autism (it's implied that Holden, the autistic young man at
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the center of the story, developed autism after receiving nine vaccinations in one day. The author repeatedly brings this fact of the story up and then dismisses it by saying "but science hadn't proven there was a link". Ok, Ms. Kingsbury--do you believe vaccinations cause autism or don't you?).

In addition, since this is a Christian novel, faith is part of the characters' every day lives. This is fine, except when Kingsbury uses her beliefs to moralize in a way that doesn't relate to the story. For example, at the beginning, there is discussion about how Ella, the main female character, is a virgin and is glad her boyfriend is ok with waiting. That's fine, but then the issue is dropped and never brought up again. It's as if Kingsbury wants the reader to know that Ella, despite not being religious initially, is a "good girl" and that it's ok to root for her, so she uses virginity as a placeholder for "good person". There are so many problems with that, I don't even know where to begin.

Unlocked had the potential to be an interesting and timely novel on an issue of utmost importance in today's world, but it fails as an exercise in writing. It is sickeningly sentimental, preachy, and predictable. I understand that not every reader wants to read challenging or "edgy" books all the time, but when an author picks a heavy subject, they should be prepared to approach it in a realistic way that might make some readers uncomfortable.
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LibraryThing member kittycrochettwo
Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury is a touching story about a young man with autism that will grab your heart and not let go!

Until the age of three Holden Harris and Ella Reynolds had been inseparable, their families were the best of friends. When Holden is diagnosed with Autism, the Reynolds family
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decides they don't want their daughter playing with him anymore, but for Holden he never forgot Ella, part of his daily routine is watching home movies of him and Ella before he got sick.
Fast forward Holden is 18, he is basically uncommunicative,the only thing he really responds to is music.His mother Tracy struggles daily with the challenges of taking care of an Autistic child, you can feel her pain and longing as she talks about never being able to touch or hold her son, of how she holds out hope that some day he will respond to her! Holden's dad basically ran away from the problems at home by taking a job that keeps him away from home most of the year.

Ella Reynolds seemed to have the perfect life, she was a cheerleader, and dating one of the most popular boys in school, and she has just landed the lead in the school musical,but things aren't good at home, since the family moved back to town, her mom and dad seem to be having major problems!
When Ella sees her boyfriend bullying a special needs student, she realizes he isn't who she thought he was and breaks up with him, she soon realizes the boy is Holden her old childhood friend.
Can faith, music, and finding his friend Ella, help Holden unlock the stranglehold that autism has on him?

This was one of the best Karen Kingsbury books I have ever read! The characters came alive, and the emotions literally surround you as you read. I believe that Karen is certainly guided by God when she writes her stories, because you come away uplifted, and your faith is renewed. With this book she taught me about Autism, something I knew nothing about. She also deals with some very timely issues such as bullying, suicide and peer pressure, which makes me think that this book should be mandatory reading for every high school student.

I highly recommend this book, but be prepared to laugh and cry, and see the world thru Holden's eyes just for a bit. This is a faith building life changing book you wont be able to put down. On a scale of 1 to 5 this book deserves a 10!

Even though I was provided a copy of this book by Zondervan for review it in no way alters my opinion of this book!
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LibraryThing member jdy
Another one of Karen Kingsbury greats. I always enjoy her style of writing, and for some reason, when I picked this book up, I thought I would be following a Baxter. The story of Holdon and Ella were captevating and I enjoyed the way the story of Holdon and Michael were portrayed. Makes everyone
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think just a little bit more when they face or interact with people who are different. Not in large ways either. A good reminder of God's grace and love for every one of us. Another great read.
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LibraryThing member lauriehere
“Unlocked”, by Karen Kingsbury
Book Review:

Zondervan sent me a new, free book by Karen Kingsbury, called ‘Unlocked’, in exchange for me to write a review about her newest ‘life-changing fiction’ book she has written. This book is a touching story about a young boy who was struck with
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Asperberger’s Syndrome, (a form of Autism,) at the young age of three. As a teenager attending regular High School, he begins being drawn out of his ‘locked’ shell by a long, lost, young playmate whom he used to play with as a young boy. Unknowingly, they meet back up together in High School through music. She was touched with the magic of the blessings of the Lord, our God, to draw out this young man afflicted with Aspergers... To miss this book is to miss the magic our Lord has working in us in ways we never know until they happen.
Laurie Carlson
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LibraryThing member ReviewsbyMolly
Karen Kingsbury is a seasoned author, who creates stories that her readers can relate to in someway or another. One thing about her stories and her books, is that she uses Forever in Fiction...an auction of sorts, that honors a friend or family member by placing their name as a character in her
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books. I think that that adds a meaning to her already depth filled stories.

We saw about Unlocked in Karen Kingsbury's Take Four book as the characters in that book were producing a movie entitled Unlocked, about a young man who has Autistic. I'll be honest with you and tell you that I just wasn't sure how that would pan out in a story all it's own, like it would drag on and on and not be like her previous stories, that touch the heart. But, I was pleasantly surprised with the book when I sat down and opened the story. Karen took two very touchy subjects: bullying and Autism, and combined them in one powerful book.

In Unlocked, we meet Holden Harris, an Autistic high schooler locked inside himself. Her's a tender hearted character who prays for EVERYONE, even if they are "mean jerks" who like to tease and bully him. Enter Jake Collins. He's the "mean jerk" who's intent on bullying Holden, along with his jock buddies, even his girlfriend says to stop. Enter beautiful Ella. God used Ella in Holden's life to help him....well, that's were I'll stop for fear if I go on, I'll give spoilers to the story.

Through a hard lesson in bullying and through the seriousness of Autism, Kingsbury shows that God can take every situation, bad, good, or in between, and use it as a message. She also shows the power that unrelenting prayer can have on ones life. It is truly amazing. This is definitely a 4 star book that should not be missed. Oh and did I mention that you should really have lots of tissues handy? Yea, well, in case I forgot to mention it.....HAVE TISSUES!
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LibraryThing member judyg54
Holden Harris is a 18 year old child who is locked in his own world with autism. Despite his unusual behavior at times, he seems content and happy in his own little world; even if he is sometimes picked on by some at school.
Ella Reynolds finds herself running with the "in" people at her school. But
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she quickly discovers how cruel they can be and begins to devote herself to the school play and helping Holden become a part of the musical "Beauty and the Beast". Ella soon discovers that her and Holden use to be playmates when they were very young, before Holden became autistic. So what happened to Holden and why did her parents suddenly stop being friends with Holden's folks?
There were many facets to this story and as usual Karen Kingsbury makes these people so real you feel that the story is really true. Holden though is not the only person in the story who is "locked" in a world of his own. You have the problems kids face at school with bullying, the problem Holden's dad couldn't face regarding his son and how he dealt with it and many more folks who had to "unlock" their narrow way of thinking and open themselves up to God's possibilities in their life. This was a beautifully written story and my heart was moved having read it.
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LibraryThing member HisChild
Unlocked is another top-notch book from the prolific and amazing author Karen Kingsbury. It is about a teen-aged boy, Holden Harris, who is locked away in his own private world due to autism brought on by childhood immunizations. It is overwhelming to read this book as Karen delves deep into the
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mind of this young man. She has an ability to convey his innermost thoughts to the reader that makes it almost seem as if you are living the story and sitting in the same room with the characters. You can feel the pain and anguish of the mother and father as they strive to discover the happy, laughing little boy that once lived with them.

Unlocked is not only the story of how prayer and music work together to bring Holden back to those he loves and who love him, it is the story of how others surrounding him are impacted and changed by this young man. As the power of music begins to unlock Holden's ability to communicate and react with the world around him, the reader is overwhelmed by the power of the story. As always with books by Karen Kingsbury, I recommend that you have a box of tissues nearby when you read Unlocked.

I have had the experience of working around some autistic children on occasion at the school where I work. Not only has reading Unlocked helped me to better understand why autistic children react the way they do to outside stimuli, it has helped me know how to respond to these students. This book is one of the best that Karen Kingsbury has written in a long line of outstanding novels.
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LibraryThing member brandileigh2003
This is such a powerful and emotional read! It had me crying (both happy and sad for characters) at several points. Ms. Kingsbury really nailed using multiple perspectives, giving us a full story and picture of autism, God's power, healing and the power of music.
This is christian fiction at its
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best... I was so wrapped up in the character's lives and voices, pulling for a miracle, and soaking up the message that God can change, He can be there for those who love him, ask of him and trust him to work.
Bullying and suicide are also addressed, but she handles it well, and it didn't feel like she was stretching to include it in the story, it really matched up well, and evoked emotion from me.
I'm glad that I picked this up! I don't know why I've waited so long to read it.
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LibraryThing member lchs.mrso
Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury is about the protagonist, a young boy, who becomes autistic at the age of three. His good, family friends leave him because they do not want their daughter to see the autistic boy. He has not spoken or made eye contact with anyone since then. The boy and young girl who
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used to be his best friend run into each other in high school. The girl is determined to make him talk or “unlock” him because she remembers how outgoing he was when he was younger. With many sacrifices and opportunities the young boy is “unlocked” and both the families’ lives change for the better.
If you would look at this book it would not look like it would be about an autistic boy. The cover is very appealing with a young, good-looking boy on the front staring off into space like something is on his mind. People who have a disease like this in their family and teenagers who are uncertain of what all goes on with a person with autism should read this.
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LibraryThing member jnut1
Not my favorite Karen Kingsbury book. I am not sure what I didn't like about it but was surprised I didn't like it.

LibraryThing member Stormydawnc
I didn't want to like this book. I really didn't. It has all the things I normally despise. I don't like most books that carry the label "Christian fiction", because typically, they're just not that good. I don't like books that play with cliches. I don't typically like books that are set in high
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schools, because once was enough. And I don't like books that are this cheesy, because let me warn you: it is.

And yet, here we are, at a five star rating. I think the main reason for this is that even though some of the cliches that are prevalent in Christian fiction are present here, the characters work around that. All the characters in this book seem like believable human beings with hope, fears, and doubts. They're the kind of people I could get coffee with and never lack for conversation. I'm invested in their lives to the point where I actively rooted for the main characters to get what they wanted.

I think it says a good deal about a book that I read this almost two years ago, and can still remember most of it. I remember the characters, what they strove for, and what they got. It may not have been realistic, but this is one of those books where I just have to be all right with that.

I also appreciate the fact that despite the overall positivity of this book, bad things do happen, which is normally my problem with Christian fiction: bad things just keep happening until it pushes the characters to have faith in God, or the book is just completely washed in happy events. This book has a balance of that this feels real, if not a little optimistic.

I think, in the end, that's why I like this book so much, enough to actually give it five stars-- it's optimistic without seeming fake, and I appreciate an author who can write in that way.
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LibraryThing member stacey.abrahamson
Unlocked is a heartwarming story that brought to light how a person with severe autism may be feeling on the inside. The author was able to convey love, loss, tragedy, faith, friendship, and family in a novel that caused me to cry many times. The story was believable and the topic of autism,
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suicide, peer pressure, struggle, all came together beautifully in the end giving hope.
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LibraryThing member 400mom
Kind of a Disney-type ending but a beautiful story.
LibraryThing member kaylynvh
I love it when a story is written so well I find myself crying, smiling, or laughing along with the characters.


Audie Award (Finalist — 2011)


Original language


Physical description

8.39 inches


0310342546 / 9780310342540



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