Book Review: “Unlocked” by Karen Kingsbury
By Rebekah Doucette, Grade 12

Holden Harris is a young man, born and raised in Georgia. He is eighteen, a senior in high school, and very handsome. There is only one thing different about Holden, and that is something that doctors have never been able to help him with. Something that people knew he could never conquer. Holden Harris is autistic.

The book “Unlocked” by Karen Kingsbury tells the story of two close families whose lives were changed by the sudden signs of autism in three year old Holden. After receiving nine immunization shots in one day, Holden’s life began spiraling out of control. The once bright, happy and outgoing child changed overnight to a child who never spoke, never made eye contact, and refused to acknowledge the very people he had once loved.

Until Ella. Holden and Ella had once been very close friends. After Holden’s sudden and drastic change in behavior,  Ella’s parents, not knowing much about autism, became afraid that it was contagious, and slowly but surely dropped all ties with the Harris family. They never spoke to each other again – until Ella and Holden were eighteen and seniors in high school.

By some weird twist of fate, Ella and Holden end up at the same high school – he in the special needs wing and she in the other classes. They meet, and Ella discovers the truth about her long lost friendship with Holden. Slowly but surely, with the help of music, Ella begins to draw Holden out of the confines of his prison of autism.

Eventually Holden, though still in some ways different from the rest of the student body, is pulled almost completely out of his shell in a way that shocks his family, teachers, and therapists. Whereas before his only mode of communication was Picture Exchange Communication System cards (or PECS cards, a form of communication for autistic people on the non-verbal spectrum), he soon becomes able to sing and speak and even make eye contact, something he had not done in fifteen years.

In the novel “Unlocked,” Kingsbury deals not only with autism, but she passionately shows the way special needs children like Holden and others who are deemed “different” are bullied in the schools today, just because of their hair, clothing, or whatever other little thing. Kingsbury shows how this rude treatment of others can lead to inferiority complexes, broken lives, and even suicide. She shows how just one person’s change of attitude can change a whole school for the better.

Karen Kingsbury’s novel “Unlocked” is sweet, tender, thought provoking, and can even bring tears of both joy and sorrow to her reader’s eyes. This is a book that every teenager should read; a reminder to think twice before criticizing others over the way they act or look, because no one sees the heart of gold that lies inside.

Ungentlemanly: A Review of "Gentleman's Agreement"
By Christy Box, Grade 10

You can find prejudice in many different places, sometimes in places you don’t expect. Sometimes you’ll find it right in your own hometown. In this case, it’s antisemitism, or prejudice against Jews, in America at about the time of World War II.

“Gentlemen’s Agreement” is a 1947 film starring Gregory Peck and Dorothy McGuire. Philip Green (Peck) is a journalist who is asked to write articles on antisemitism in America. He doesn’t know how to go about it, until he comes up with an idea to convince everyone that he is Jewish. He soon finds this is much harder than it seems. He is not allowed in some hotels, not invited to certain parties, and not accepted to some jobs simply because he has assumed a Jewish name. This ruse begins to strain every aspect of his life as he learns what it’s like every day for these people.

What I found really interesting about this movie is that it was one of the first movies to deal with racism and prejudice. It mirrored real prejudice that was going on within the country. The Jewish studio executives actually came to the producer and asked him not to make the movie, because they would prefer to deal with it quietly. The producer ignored this and even put in a scene just like his confrontation with them. This movie did stir up a lot of trouble. One person even tried to sue the company for making the movie, but it was thrown out of court. Despite its negative reactions, several important people supported this movie because they thought it was a subject that needed to be heard, including one of the supporting actors (who had to change his name because it sounded Jewish).

I highly recommend this movie, not only because the actors are great and the plot is interesting, but also because it wakes you up a little that prejudice isn’t in some far away place. It’s here, too. It’s hard to believe that something like this happened here. The main reason I love this movie is because it shows we can take a step to keep it from happening again.

5/3/2011 02:34:08 am

I love your book review Rebekah!:)<3


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