Book Review: "Unlocked" by Karen Kingsbury

Summary from the publisher: Holden Harris is locked in a prison of autism, bullied by kids who don’t understand his quiet, quirky ways. Ella Reynolds, star of the school drama production takes an interest in Holden after she catches him listening to her rehearse for the school play. Will friendship, faith, and the power of song be enough to unlock the miracle that Holden needs?

If you've ever read a Karen Kingsbury book then you know what to expect when you read this book. If you've never read a Karen Kingsbury book before, well all I have to say is that it's like reading a soap opera. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with soap operas but there's as much drama in this book as you find on daytime TV. Of course it's a Christian soap opera.

Since I've never personally had anyone close to me dealing with autism, I can't fully relate with what the characters are going through. From other accounts that I have read, I am assuming that what Holden's parents and friends are experiencing is what normally happens. There's the frustration and emotion of not being able to communicate with your son. It can even tear a marriage apart as evident in this story. The book also shows the effects of bullying and how it should be stopped, though the quickness of the turnaround in this book was not realistic.

I am a bit appalled at how the ending ends up being. Everything seems to magically all come together just like the ending of the musical that's being performed. For fifteen years Holden's had no communication with his parents or anyone, and then suddenly after one meeting with his old childhood friend he starts talking again? It reminded of another of Kingsbury's books where a character with a life threatening situation is told of a surgery that DOESN'T EXIST in real life that can save him. It kills me that these books have to have a happy ending. It feels like it gives false hope to parents of autistic kids that their child can too become healed immediately. I'm not saying that miracles can happen but what if people believe this and then become obsessed with trying to find a cure for their kids? There is a also a character that commits suicide. It bothered me that, in her author note, Kingsbury said that it was really hard for her to write about it so in order to make herself feel better she made the character change their mind during the last few seconds of their life. So because SHE feels bad, she can't let her character go in peace? Also, I found it annoying at how many times in this book about how handsome Holden is and how if he was "normal" he'd be the catch of every girl in school. I guess it would have been ok to bring it up once, but it's mentioned MANY times throughout the book. One more thing to note: the only news channel mentioned in this story was Fox News. Just wanted to note that.

Yes, this review is bit more snarkier than normal. I'm not that really big of a KK fan, and I'm definitely not on her bandwagon like a bunch of other people are. To be honest I find most of her work to be over emotional, over dramatic and the quality of the writing is not that great. Yet for some reason, thousands of Christian women love her work to death and will do anything for her as evident by the over 600 5 star reviews on Amazon for this book, because KK offered a cruise or something for all her readers who did so. Her work, as far I know, hasn't won any literary awards even in the Christian industry so while her books may be popular with a certain market, overall they aren't being recognized for their writing or literary quality. I sometimes feel like Karen Kingsbury is to Christian fiction as Nicholas Sparks is to romance. They are not really the best examples of the market but everyone seems to make them out to be.

Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury is published by Zondervan (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher.


  1. I've read several of Karen Kingsbury's books. Some I've really enjoyed and some I have not. Unlocked is not my favorite; many of the reasons you mentioned I definitely agree with. (Especially the thing about how "handsome" Holden was but since he wasn't "normal" girls weren't interested. Wow, that was dragged out way too often.) Great review.

  2. I usually read about one KK book per year. I really can't stand to do more than that, and lately it's been to just keep up with the Baxter saga (even that's getting a little old).

  3. Thanks for your review. Even though I am not a frequent reader of Christian fiction and I have not read this author, I too am frustrated when books need to wrap a happy ending up in a little bow, especially when it is not realistic. I hope that this story doesn't do a disservice to the autistic community.

  4. Thanks for the review. I am not a KK fan either. I have only read 2 of her books -- my friends that love her say I just haven't read the right ones. I will include this book on the list of not to read by KK.


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