Saturday, October 30, 2010

Unlocked, by Karen Kingsbury

Most of the time, when I read about all things autism, I'm reading non-fiction about intervention, diet, education, reflex integration, communication, biomedical treatment, homeschooling, etc.

I don't read much fiction about all things autism. I don't read much fiction, period.

In Unlocked, author Karen Kingsbury tells the fictional story of Holden Harris, an 18-year-old young man who regressed into autism after too many vaccinations at once when he was three. At 18, Holden is still largely non-speaking, non-communicative. His odd behaviors set him apart everywhere he goes. He's often picked on because of his behaviors. At school, he and a long lost playmate from their toddler years rediscover one another, and Unlocked becomes the story of many transformations in the characters.

Kingsbury does a good job of taking the perspective of Holden's mother, I think. I identify with her a lot.

She writes a good story. Kingsbury gives incredible insight to Holden, and his thoughts. The young man who struggles so to communicate with others has no trouble communicating with himself or with his God. Kingsbury has characters who are around Holden, particularly his mother and one of his friends, experienced at perspective taking, reading between the lines, putting clues together to understand Holden's behaviors in a way that I wish more of society could do, would do.

Kingsbury weaves prayer and scripture throughout the realistic story, which is sometimes shocking and sad along with hopeful and uplifting.

Unlocked was a sweet diversion for me, taking me away to Georgia for a while, watching the story unfold in my mind. I felt guilty at times, seeing how my faith has faltered at times compared to that of Holden's strong mother, Tracy. Kingsbury captures the unending hope that we parents of children with autism have, hope for getting our children back from whatever stole them in the regression.

Some of the anecdotes that Karen penned in the book are so spot-on that I wondered if she knows someone on the autism spectrum. Following the end of the story, Kingsbury explains that Holden and the story is modeled after a transformation that she witnessed in real life, a young man she came to know because of her own children.

Kingsbury leaves readers with 20 questions for discussion for groups and book clubs. If you didn't identify with someone in the story, I suspect you will if you read those questions and think about them.

Amazon dot com has Unlocked priced (on sale) at $6.49. Karen Kingsbury has a facebook fan page and a web site,

Zondervan sent me a review copy of Unlocked so that I may review it on my blog. I am not paid for reviews and am not obligated to provide a positive review.


Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing. I love Karen Kingsbury. I had no idea she had written a book about autism. My son most likely has Aspergers. He is going for testing on Monday, actually, but it's been clear to me for a long time that something is not right. I actually recently read a fictional story (not Christian though) by Jodi Piccoult called House Rules and it is about a teenage boy with Asperger's Syndrome. I really enjoyed that one, though there is language, it is a thoroughly interesting plot. said...

I’ve been a big fan of Karen Kingsbury for many years and I thoroughly enjoyed Unlocked.

This is a stand-alone novel that I wish was part of a series – I enjoyed the characters so much I want more! The funny thing is that I usually complain about the way novels in series feel like unfinished books with too many loose ends. (shrug)

Anyway, I just posted more of my thoughts on this book on my blog at


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