Unlocked: A Love Story

Unlocked: A Love Story

by Karen Kingsbury


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A broken family, a lost boy, and the miracle everyone needed . . .

Despite his quiet ways and quirky behaviors, Holden Harris is very happy and socially engaged—on the inside, in a private world all his own. But Holden is an eighteen-year-old locked in a prison of autism. In reality he is bullied at school by kids who only see that he is very different.

Ella Reynolds is part of the “in” crowd. A cheerleader and star of the high school drama production, her life seems perfect. When she catches Holden listening to her rehearse for the school play, she is drawn to him . . . the way he is drawn to the music. Then Ella makes a dramatic discovery—she and Holden were best friends as children. Frustrated by the way Holden is bullied and horrified at the indifference of her peers, Ella decides to take a stand against the most privileged and popular kids at school. Including her boyfriend, Jake.

Ella believes miracles can happen in the most unlikely places and that just maybe an entire community might celebrate from the sidelines. But will Holden’s praying mother, Ella’s efforts, and a cast of theater kids be enough to unlock the prison that contains Holden? This time friendship, faith, and the power of a song must be strong enough to open the doors to the miracle Holden needs.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310342540
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 03/31/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 129,352
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Karen Kingsbury, #1 New York Times bestselling novelist, is America’s favorite inspirational storyteller, with more than twenty-five million copies of her award-winning books in print. Her last dozen titles have topped bestseller lists and many of her novels are under development as major motion pictures. Her Baxter Family books have been developed into a TV series now available everywhere. Karen is also an adjunct professor of writing at Liberty University. In 2001 she and her husband, Don, adopted three boys from Haiti, doubling their family in a matter of months. Today the couple has joined the ranks of empty nesters, living in Tennessee near four of their adult children.

Read an Excerpt


A Love Story

By Karen Kingsbury


Copyright © 2010 Karen Kingsbury
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-34254-0


If the first day was any indication, this year was going to be the best ever.

Quarterback Jake Collins worked his way through the crowded hallway of Fulton High School's math building until he reached the meeting spot near the stairs. A group of his buddies from the football team were already there. At the same time, a couple of blonde freshmen girls walked past and giggled, flashing flirty eyes in his direction. Jake raised his brow and winked at his buddies.

Outside the brick building, the sun shone across Johns Creek, streaming through the windows and warming the cold hallways, making the river of kids squint as they passed by.

"The gang's all here!" Jake thrust his hands into the front pockets of his jeans and swapped a laugh with the guys gathered around him. He looked back at the blonde girls now halfway down the hall. "Hotties everywhere."

"Gotta love the Fulton girls." Sam Sanders elbowed him in the ribs. Sam had been Jake's go-to guy for the past three years, one of the top receivers in the Atlanta area and Jake's best friend.

"Dude, they're gonna love us this year." He fist-pounded Sam. "State titles, baby. All the way. Everything we touch is gonna be gold."

"Triple threat. No class has ever done it!" Sam nodded big. "Football ... basketball ... track!" He strutted in a small circle, arms raised.

Jake laughed. "Girls fallin at our feet." He high-fived Sam, and the two of them chuckled, eyeing another pair of girls. "Even more than usual."

"Mmm-hmm." Sam nodded at a pretty brunette, one of the two passing by. "Best Georgia peaches in the state."

They had six minutes to get to class, but that didn't mean anything to Jake and his boys. If the group of them made a blockade in the hallway, so what? The other kids would walk around them. Jake didn't care. This was their school. They could block the hallway if they wanted to.

"Look!" Rudy Brown, another football player, laughed and pointed to an overweight kid in a wheelchair a dozen yards down the hallway. Two teachers worked to maneuver him through a classroom door. "What? He's too fat to walk?" Rudy raised his voice louder than the noise around them. Rudy was six-five, three hundred pounds. Strongest offensive lineman in the county. He was being recruited by a dozen Division I college programs.

"Hey!" Jake scowled at his teammate. "Not the wheelchair kids. They can't help it."

"Yeah." Sam kicked the big guy's shin. "Have a heart."

Commotion at the end of the hall caught Jake's attention, and he turned toward it. He shaded his eyes against the glare of the sun and realized who it was. "Well, I'll be ..." He chuckled. "I thought Harris graduated."

"Who?" Sam scowled, searching the crowded sun-streaked hallway.

"That Holden Harris guy." Jake crossed his arms and watched Holden as he struggled closer. "Freak." Jake snickered. "Pretty face ... you know, the queer boy."

Holden was doing that weird thing he always did when he walked to class. Hands folded, knuckles close to his chin, flapping his elbows straight out to either side. Every few steps he stopped and his eyes darted to some random spot on the ceiling. Jake sneered at him. "Freak."

Sam made a face. "Why does he do that?"

"Cause he's a sissy." Rudy chuckled. "Nothing wrong with him, 'cept that."

"Leader of the short bus." Jake laughed louder, and the others standing with him did the same.

Holden Harris didn't look like a special-needs kid. That's what bugged Jake. It was the part that really got under his skin. Holden looked perfectly normal. No, he looked better than normal. Like some Abercrombie poster kid. A pretty boy with a football player's build. Not only that, but the kid had crazy blue eyes. Eyes that made the hottest girls turn and stare—even when Holden acted like an idiot, the way he always did.

"Let's welcome him back." Jake motioned to his teammates, and they walked that direction.

"Hey, pretty boy," one of them cried out in a mock high-pitched voice. Several of the kids crowding the hall between the football players and Holden looked alarmed. They scurried to get out of the way.

Sam waved big with as much sarcasm as he could pull off. "Hey, freak ... welcome back to school!"

Holden didn't seem to hear. He stopped short, clearly frustrating the kids walking behind him, and he pressed his fingers to his ears. After a few seconds, he lowered his hands and shot strange glances just above the kids passing by. Never right at them. Like he was counting them in or something.

"What's he, the welcome committee?" Jake shook his head, disgusted.

"Yeah, maybe he'll run for class president." Sam chuckled.

"Sure. President of Special Activities?" Rudy gave Sam a shove. "Get it? Special activities?"

"Yeah, that's it." Sam laughed harder and punched a few of the other players standing with them. "They don't get more special than that weirdo."

Jake let the others do the talking for a minute. Holden walked toward them, and as he did, he started the wing-flapping thing again. Folded hands tucked near his chin, elbows straight out and flapping at his sides.

"Maybe he thinks he can fly." Rudy sneered. He shifted so that the group of football players pretty well blocked the entire hallway. "Hey, pretty boy," he shouted. "You gonna fly home to Mama?"

Holden was only a few feet away, and he must've heard that because he lifted his chin and faced them—not exactly at them, but in their direction. His arms fell to his sides and he stopped short. Jake and his boys took up practically the whole width of the hallway, so Holden couldn't get by.

"Hey, freak." Sam gave Holden's shoulder a shove. "Why you act so weird?"

Jake waited a few seconds. "Freako, say something!" He pushed the kid's other shoulder. "You can hear us ... I know you can hear."

Holden stared to the side of Jake, like there was another person, an invisible person, standing beside him. Holden's eyes caught the light and he blinked a few times. Those ridiculously blue eyes. They searched the empty walls and rows of lockers—but never their faces—as if he couldn't understand a word they were saying. Or he didn't want to understand. He flapped his arms again and nodded a few quick times. Then he set his backpack on the floor in front of him, unzipped it, and pulled out a thick stack of flash cards. He sorted through them, his fingers moving fast, careful not to drop a single one. He must've found what he was looking for, because he pulled out a card and handed it to Jake.

"What's this?" Jake scowled as he took it.

"Too early for Valentine's Day, right Jake, man?" Sam and a few of the guys snickered.

"Shut up." Jake glared at his friend. "You're not funny."

Jake looked at the laminated card. It had the photo of a classroom on it. In the top corner was a small picture of a clock. Beneath were the words "Class Time."

"Flash cards?" Jake flicked it back at Holden, and it fluttered to the ground. "Use your words, idiot."

Holden didn't look at them, and he didn't look at the flash card on the ground. His expression tensed, and he set his full stack of cards on his open backpack. Then he made an awkward lunge for the card on the floor. As he did, Rudy gave Holden's backpack a solid kick. The stack of cards scattered everywhere.

"There." Rudy cussed at Holden and gave him another shove, harder than anything Sam or Jake had done. "Try words next time."

Holden tried to grab the cards as they scattered, but he missed and lost his balance. He landed with a thud, sprawled out across the linoleum floor. Quickly he scrambled to his hands and knees, breathing hard, his eyes darting about at nothing in particular. Then, with a frantic intensity, he began collecting his flash cards. The crowd in the hallway had thinned out, kids making their way to class. The ones who saw Holden struggling didn't stop to help.

Jake felt a flicker of remorse. Never mind what the kid looked like or how strong he was. Holden wasn't fighting back. They'd taken it far enough. "Come on." He slapped Rudy on the shoulder. "Let's go. Coach wants us on time this year."

A murmur of snickers and agreements came from the boys, and they side-stepped Holden and his flash cards. As they did, a skinny kid walked their way. He gave the football players a look, then he called out to Harris, still crawling around on the floor. "Hey ... I'll help you."

The skinny kid stayed to his side of the hallway as he passed Jake and the guys. Then he set his own backpack down and started picking up cards off the floor.

"What's this?" Sam stopped in his tracks and turned, his arms crossed. "Another guy from the short bus?" He spat the words at the kid.

The guy had stringy jet-black hair, tight straight-leg jeans, and a threadbare backpack. Another loser. The kid ignored Sam and kept gathering the cards.

"Hey, goth." Jake laughed. "You're too late. I'm pretty sure Holden already has a boyfriend."

Again the kid ignored the comment as he finished helping Holden. Jake waved his hand in their direction. "Forget 'em." Jake led the way. "We gotta get to class. It's a big day, boys."

They'd waited four years for this, the privilege to strut their stuff on the Fulton campus. Jake was about to sign a scholarship offer with one of the big Southeastern Conference colleges, and he was dating the prettiest girl on campus.

Ella Reynolds.

He'd met Ella at the pool over summer. They were both lifeguards, and from the first day Jake kept one eye on the screaming kids and the other on Ella. Through the hottest days of July and August, their friendship grew. Jake had seen her around Fulton, but they never really connected until the pool. He played sweet all summer—sometimes even thought he might be turning soft. She brought that out in him. Good girl, Ella. But he was too young for good girls.

Especially now ... his senior year.

Jake planned to hook up with lots of hot girls—especially the freshmen. Over summer—when he wasn't stealing kisses from Ella—he and Sam and Rudy and the guys talked constantly about the fall. This was their year, the season they'd been waiting for.

He punched Sam in the arm as they walked out of the building. "Win every game, take every title ..."

"Get any girl we want." Sam finished his thought, and both of them cracked up laughing.

Everyone on campus was going to know who they were. Even the freaks like Holden Harris and the skinny goth kid, whatever his name. Because that's how it worked.

And this year they owned the school.

Holden could hear the music. Beautiful and full and sweeping through the hallways of Fulton High. Rich horns and melodic strings. A fluttering of the ivories from every key known to man. Scintillating highs and mesmerizing lows that filled his senses and carried him along, reminding him that everything was okay. Music that sang to him of Jesus and goodness and love and joy. Peace and kindness. Church music. Music that told him the truth: no matter what, he was okay. Yes, Holden could hear the music.

He just wasn't sure anyone else could hear it.

Because why would his cards be all across the floor if everyone else could hear the same song?

Holden let the question slide. He collected his special cards and sorted through them until he was sure they were all there. All seventy-three. He looked at the friend helping him. He was saying something, but the words were lost in the music. Holden sorted through the cards again, searching. It was here ... it had to be. He had all seventy-three. Forty-six from the friend across from him and twenty-seven from all around his feet. Seventy-three.

Holden sorted, and the music played on. There it was! A picture of a smiling boy with his hand raised. The words on the card said "Thank you." Holden flashed it to the friend, but he didn't hand it to him.

Last time he'd handed over a card, they'd ended up scattered across the floor.

"What's that?" His friend looked at the card and smiled. "Oh. No big deal." He looked over his shoulder at the football players walking out of the building. "Stay away from those jerks."

Holden blinked and looked back at the big guys. Mixed in the music were other words, church words. He was three years old and Sunday school was in session and Holden was there again and the teacher was talking. No, Tommy, don't call anyone a jerk. These are your classmates and this is Sunday school. We don't use that word ... it's not nice. We need to pray for our friends, not call them names.

The big guys were jerks? They were almost at the end of the hallway. Walking to the music. Teacher said to pray for people, not call them names. And that's what the sign on the wall at the church said. Pray on all occasions. Holden nodded, intense, convinced. Okay, then. He would pray. Right now before another minute ran off the clock. Dear God, be with the guys at the end of the hall. They don't want to be jerks. Thank You, Jesus. I know You love me. Your friend, Holden Harris.

He prayed for a few seconds, and then his new friend held out his hand.

But Holden didn't take it. The walls were closing in a little and there was too much noise, too many words. The music was very loud now. He mixed the "Thank you" card back into the deck and looked for another. One more. Harder and harder he looked. There! He pulled it out and held it up to his friend. It showed two guys giving a high five. Beneath it were the words that he wanted his friend to hear.

"You're my friend?" The guy smiled. "That's what you want to tell me?"

Holden looked out the window. This was the pretty part of the song. He swayed a little, dancing to the music.

"Anyway, I'm Michael Schwartz."

Michael Schwartz. Maybe Michael could hear the music. Maybe. Holden shuffled through his cards and then looked out the window again. He slipped the cards into his backpack and zipped it up. The music was softer again. A little more swaying and another look out the window. His mom lived out that way. But he didn't get to find her until 3:10. After 3:10 he would climb back on the bus and the bus driver would take him home.

On the other side of the window.

"Well, okay then. Gotta get to class." Michael waved. "See you around."

Holden watched him go. He would pray for Michael, too, because Teacher said to pray for friends. Michael was his friend. But he wouldn't pray right now because the clock on the wall said 9:05. And 9:05 meant Trigonometry. Trigonometry was when he could relax the most because numbers were like music. They filled his senses and reminded him of the truth. Everything was going to be okay.

He looked at the wide, open hallway and he remembered the big guys. The ones they weren't supposed to call jerks. Something was wrong with them. Something he didn't have a card for, not even with seventy-three cards. A sharp noise screeched through the music. What if the boys kicked his cards again or what if they kicked him? The screeching grew louder. Screeching and ... and ...

BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! The drums crashed and slammed through his head, pounding him, pushing him, hurting him. Hurting his ears. Holden covered the sides of his face, but nothing helped, nothing stopped the drums.


No! Stop the drums! Holden shouted the words, but it sounded like screaming in the music. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Please, God ... Jesus loves me, this I know ... please ... for the Bible tells me so ...

Holden breathed faster and faster and his eyes closed very tight. No, not the drums! BOOM! BOOM! Holden dropped down and lay flat on his stomach. The school floor was cool against his shirt. Quick ... very quick, he placed his hands palm down, his toes against the floor, his body stiff and flat like a board, and his daddy's voice came strong through the music.

"That's right, Holden, just like that. That's a push-up, except when you're older you'll keep your back straight. Very good ... like the big boys. If you can do that at three years old, you can do anything. Absolutely anything, Holden. Push-ups will make you big and strong like me, buddy. Thatta boy. Keep doing that and no one will mess with you ever ..."

Holden heard the words again and again and they sang out against the drumbeat. Up, down, up, down, up, down. Keep your back straight ... push-ups will make you big and strong like me, buddy ... No one will mess with you ever ... Up, down, up, down. Up and hold, down and hold, up and hold, down and hold. Up, down, up, down.

He breathed harder and harder, but now his breathing was the good kind. The drums were quieter now. Boom ... boom ... boom ...

Twenty-two push-ups, twenty-three, twenty-four ...


Excerpted from Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury. Copyright © 2010 Karen Kingsbury. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Unlocked: A Love Story 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 270 reviews.
ANNTMASON More than 1 year ago
This author's ability to write about true issues and problems people face in every day life draw the reader in and speaks to the soul. Her books always inspire me, and UNLOCKED was a true blessing! Unlocked is another incredible story about life, love, and true caring, respect and kindness. This should be mandatory reading to all! This book tackles the relationship between parents also of a special need person. It takes a toll on a marriage and most don't survive. She explored the struggle the Harris's had and explained how helpless parents of a special needs child feel and how much the children need both parents together. How incredibly timely this book is that deals with bullying! This book is a light of hope! Her books inspire me to be a better person and strengthen me in so many ways! Her depiction of a child with autism is amazing and enlightening. I believe this book is a blessing and it will open the eyes of all who read this! Though I have read almost every one of her books this was a little different. It touched on subjects that are often hard to deal with. I found myself crying at times, tears of joy or sadness and cheering at others. The subject of bullying and autism are dealt with lovingly and should be a lesson to all who read this. It covers these issues and opens the understanding eye to that because a person is different that is no reason or excuse to judge or make fun of! I can't understand why it is so hard for some people to try to see through the other person's eyes! It is a beautiful story of friends finding each other after years have passed and how in the process a phenomenon can happen when you love instead of hate. These are books this world needs more of! We need to bring respect, peace, joy, kindness and understanding back into the world before it is too late! I love all of Karen Kingsbury's books; also, Picoult, Pirrung, Rivers and others who write with the special "touch" to inspire. Ann T. Mason
kittycrochettwo More than 1 year ago
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 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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book because of the insight Mrs. Kingsbury gives her readers about an Autistic child's behavior. The book made me laugh and cry but left me hopeful. Hopeful that there are really people out their like Ella that look past the quirky behavior and befriend a child like Holden. Having one good friend can make all the difference in the world to an Autistic child. Everything about this book was authentic, from the mom being the advocate to the dad burying himself in his work, to friends not being comfortable with an Autistic child, but most of all the bullying that any child has to endure because they are "different". Whether your child is Autistic or not this book gives a true picture of a bully and the kind of bullying that goes on everyday in schools. I hope that when you read this you take away from it that bulling cannot continue, that we have to stand up to this and not let it "boys will be boys" or "that is just girl drama" be the answer because that is not the answer. If we make kids accountable for their actions and teach them that bullying in any form is wrong all kids have the chance to grow to their full God given potential.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Holden Harris is a boy with autism who is bullied because he is different. Then one day Ella Reynolds, head cheerleader and lead of school drama, is rehearsing when Holden stops and listens. Ella takes interest in him and helps him win a spot in the school play. At the same time, Ella makes the discovery that her and Holden used to be childhood friends until his diagnosis of autism. She continues to help Holden step out if his autism through music. I highly recommend this book if you are a fan of Karen Kingsbury or just a fan of romance novels. This book draws you in from the first page and keeps you drawn in until the end. Karen's amazing detail makes it so you never want to put the book down. I absolutely loved this book and will certainly read it again!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a special ed teacher i could relate to the autism issues. I prayed along with this book that this story was real.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This a really really really good book! I love the meaning of this book. I would recommend this book to anyone that likes good books!
KAB70 More than 1 year ago
This book is excellent! It has made a lasting impression on me and in how I need to treat others!!! Thank you Karen for writing such an inspirational book!
Kellie-Ann Davis More than 1 year ago
great read and one of karen's best books. great purchase!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book for my book club this month. Not a single person liked it. While yes the overall message is one that needs to be heard, the overall tone of the book is a cheesy after school special.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was the first Kingsbury book I read, and this is the one that got me hooked on her books! Its an amazing story, about how autistic Holden finds his way back to his childhood friend Ella, and how they work together on a play and overcome barriers in life, Together. -izzy
kim1987 More than 1 year ago
Another great book by Karen! Read it in a day and a half.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
IS there a movie
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Probably one of the best books I have ever read!! I am an avid reader to say the least and this is one of my favorites!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story....very touching and well written.
MoSC More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this book. Learned things about autism and loved the way it was presented. Hard to put down. Have given it as a present to my daughter in law who is a speech therapist and works with autistic kids.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another great story by a great author.
needlework2012 More than 1 year ago
Karen Kingsburgy has done it again. This book was amazing. This is definitely a book for a reading group, many discussions could be started with this book. Thanks again for a heartwarming story. I am an avid reader of Karen Kingsbury, would recommend everyone to read her books. In this world that is changing so much and not for the better, I like to escape in books by Karen Kingsbury. It gets me back on track to trust in God.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read! Hard to set down!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very touching story line that makes you think about the way you treat others. Loved the book from start to finish.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My eyes were truly opened to the beauty that exists in the sweetest souls... thank you Karen Kingsbury for another life changer!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Inspiring, and wonderful!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LOVED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!
TammyK1 More than 1 year ago
A wonderful message, beautifull told. Great.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At the recommendation of a friend i bought this book and am so glad i did. Such a great story!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book for teens through adults at any age. I look forward to sharing this and all the other kk books with my teen age daughter. My sweet daughter reminds me so much of Ella and how she cares about others.