Monday, May 23, 2011

[Review] Unlocked by Ryan G. Van Cleave

Title: Unlocked {goodreads}
Author: Ryan G. Van Cleave
Publication (dd/mm/yy): 01/06/11
Publisher: Bloomsbury (Walker Books)
Source: Review from publisher
Age: 14+
Pages: 160
My Rating:

Fourteen-year old Andy is the janitor's son, and an outcast. It's rumored that formerly popular Blake, who has become a loner since his dad's death, has a gun hidden in his locker, and beautiful, unattainable Becky Ann wants to see it. In order to impress her, Andy steals the keys from his dad and opens up Blake's locker, but the gun isn't there. A friendship develops between the two loners, and Blake shares most of his secrets with Andy, including the gun. But there's one secret that worries Andy more than anything-the date circled on Blake's calendar. Does Blake have something planned? Something that Andy can prevent?
My thoughts: 

As most verse novels are, Unlocked read really quickly. While perhaps a lot of potential emotional impact could have been extended had it been written in prose, Cleave made the right choice telling this story in verse, mainly because of the issues it presents.

High school brings much of the crap that junior high did: the cliques, the bullies, the rumours. Especially for losers, like the janitor's son, like Andy. Then, a rumour provides a rare opportunity towards popularity: apparently, fellow outcast Blake has a gun in his locker. A friendship never properly defined is cast between the two of them, and what scares him most is this: what if Blake's got something planned with the gun?

I found Unlocked a great portrayal of the effects that bullying can have on those who are inflicted. The small length of the book is also a very appealing quality, but not only that. The little poems were nicely written. I enjoyed delving into the mind of this fourteen-year-old kid who doesn't know exactly where he fits in this world. The kids at school have even made up songs about his dad!

Cleave attempted to pack an enormous weight into such a small book, and while I didn't feel a strong emotional connection to the characters (a great limitation of the verse format) I did come away from it with a renewed understanding of how far bullying and rumours - NO MATTER HOW HARMLESS THE INTENTION MAY SEEM TO BE - can go. I recommend this book for young [male] teens and up.


First part of first poem

"August arrived
with 90o
and high school
began at last,
meaning five hundred
were funneled
in from four
different junior highs,
no one really arrived
having anything
except a sweaty
to belong,
meaning we all
felt equally displaced."


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I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

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