Kingsbury, Karen. Unlocked. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010.
I am not usually a big fan of mainstream Christian fiction. Generally, the characters are not realistic, the plots are practically identical to other books, and someone always gets saved by the end of the story. Generally speaking, I can read the back cover of such a novel and tell you the entire plot line, including the "riveting" ending.
Unlocked shares many of these characteristics in that it is a predictible story with a Christian theme, but there are few things that made this book stand out and that kept me reading to the last chapter.
First, I appreciated the bullying theme that is brought up throughout this book. Those of you who have been following my blog know that I have become a fan of the television show If You Really Knew Me. The characters in this novel could easily appear on that show. Each character falls into a stereotypical high school clique (jock, popular girl, emo boy, etc.), but these groups are realistic representations of high school life, and a few of the characters choose to act differently from their stereotype. I appreciated the author's courage in broaching the topic of teen suicide, as this is a very real result of bullying, a result that has become quite common in recent years.
Second, I enjoyed seeing parts of the story through the eyes of Holden, a character with autism spectrum disorder. The reader gets to see how others respond to Holden's disability, as well as how Holden views the world. Again, autism is a delicate subject, and I think the author treated it well in this novel, even if I could guess at the ending before I got there.
Finally, this novel is part of the "Forever in Fiction" series, which helps to raise money for those in need by giving people the opportunity to donate in exchange for space in the book to memorialize a loved one or a group. The list of donors in the front of this book is amazing, and I had already read the story of Kate, the young lady who benefitted from the funds raised by this project. Kate is a young lady who is battling cancer; you can read her story here; she also appears as one of the characters in this novel.
I will not be rushing to the library tomorrow to check out the rest of Kingsbury's novels; however, this book, similar to a movie on the Hallmark channel, was a nice way to spend a lazy afternoon. I enjoyed the story even if I guessed the ending after the first few pages.
I received a complimentary copy of this novel for the purposes of review.