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Unlocked [Kindle Edition]

Ryan G. Van Cleave
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Winner of the 2011 Florida Book Awards Gold Medal for Young Adult Literature. 
Winner of the 2012 Florida Publishers Association Gold Medal in Young Adult Literature.
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?

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Ryan G. Van Cleave has published stories, poems, and nonfiction and is the director of a non-profit literary organization that provides community writing workshop programs for children. Ryan lives in Sarasota, Florida, with his wife and two daughters. Unlocked is his first novel for teens.

Product Details

  • File Size: 332 KB
  • Print Length: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Childrens; 1 edition (March 1, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004OR15ZE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,033,594 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid entry in the school violence genre May 29, 2011
Andy is the son of a janitor, and that has given him a reputation and a nickname. Shaking that off isn't easy, especially when you're a freshman in high school and everyone seems to know exactly where they belong in the social hierarchy.

While there are a couple other loners in the school -- Sue and Nicholas -- it's Blake that captures Andy's attention and interest, and it's not because he's necessarily interested in being friends. No, Blake interests Andy because of a rumor he heard: that Blake had a gun in his locker.

It's ultimately Becky Ann, the girl Andy has a mega crush on, who convinces Andy to steal the school's keys from his father and check the situation out for himself. Is Blake a threat to the school? Does Andy get the girl after snooping in Blake's locker?

Does Andy have an agenda for revenge on the school?

Unlocked, written in verse, is an extremely fast paced but surprising book on a topic that's been tread quite a bit in recent years: school violence. Andy is an angry character, but because we're given the story from his perspective, and because he's kind enough to give us his impressions of other students experiencing social outcast like he is, we understand why he's angry. We also know deep down he has a spot of goodness, even if he doesn't want to admit to it himself. Van Cleave gives his main character and his story a strong voice, something that is essential to a story as short as this one, and he is consistent in his execution.

Andy's got a strong desire to find a way to fit in, and though he is quick to judge the other "losers" in school, it's obvious he wants a friend and he wants one bad.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Will handling a gun be Andy's downfall? May 4, 2011
By Heidi G
A short novel in verse which addresses the issue of gun violence at schools. Andy's a bit of a loner, teased because his father is the janitor at his high school. Blake's another guy with few friends; his claim to fame is the whispered rumor that his locker contains a gun. He and Andy become friends, and Blake shows Andy how to shoot a gun. Andy likes shooting, but is worried that the act is becoming too important to him. He questions his motives in being friends with Blake, and wonders at what point he might tell someone about the gun. A hoped-for romance plays into the plot. A good read for teens struggling to do the right thing while maintaining sometimes fragile relationships.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Unlocked is an ambitious long-form poem addressing violence in our schools. I like ambitious writing, so I was immediately intrigued by Van Cleave's book. What will poetry contribute to this important social issue?

My first thought was that Unlocked would be an epic poem. Memories of Sir Gawain haunted my expectations. I was pleasantly surprised to see this book is divided into 1-2 page poems with chapter headings. I hesitate to call these lyrics because they are so dependent on each other. You won't see any of the chapters lifted from the book and published independently. So this is truly long-form. On the other hand, the chapters truly are chapters. Each new poem addresses a new thought, a new brick in the wall of the larger story. I found this accretive effect to be quite powerful.

Van Cleave's voice was a surprise as well. This is candid, straight-up storytelling from the perspective of a high school boy, Andy. Poetic leaps are subtle and sparse. What struck me about this voice was how wonderfully it captured a teen boy's mind. He relates to the world through video gaming and somewhat conventional metaphors. Poetry (with a capital "P") is achieved through the language of uncertainty, repetition, and the teenaged passion to belong yet be independent. Van Cleave wisely suppressed his own voice and gave it wholly to Andy. As a poet myself, I have to applaud Van Cleave's ability to do this. Effectively, he is letting a lesser poet (Andy) write his book. And I think that is why Unlocked succeeds.

The story itself follows Andy's growing relationship with Blake, another troubled teen. They bond through the seductive power of a secret gun. Other characters abound: misfits, girls, parents, school officials, and bullies.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent book, but not for me. May 14, 2011
I usually steer away from books told through verse. Actually, had I known before I requested it, I probably wouldn't have requested it, even though the blurb appealed to me. That's not to say I didn't enjoy Unlocked.

I didn't grow attatched to the characters, if you read my blog often, I'm sure you know that's an important thing for me. I did find Blake and Andy's friendship interesting, bonding over a gun. I did wonder what was going to happen in the was a nice look at what's wrong or right. All in all, it wasn't bad. It just wasn't a good match for me. Definitely check it out if verse doesn't bother you and you want a fresh look on a very scary, real subject.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Sloppy verse September 19, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Andy, the school janitor's outcast son, hears a rumor that Blake, another boy who's picked on, has a gun in his locker. When he steals his father's master key to take a peek, nothing is there. Blake forgives Andy, and the two become friends. Soon Blake shows his new friend the gun, and the two develop a fascination with the pistol. But is Blake's interest something more? And what, if anything is Andy's responsibly to his friend? To others who may be in danger?

I love the topic of the story, and even the story itself, but thought the execution ruined what could have been a timely and important book. The short chapters were supposed to be verse, I assume, but they read more like choppy sentences. Because of the writing style, character development was weak, and the store was more telling than showing. I liked Andy, and wish I could have known him better in a more traditional novel. I finished the story in less than 2 hours.

I wish I could recommend UNLOCKED, but I wouldn't want people angry at me for suggesting they waste their money, even at bargain prices.
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More About the Author

Ryan detests long walks on the beach.
He enjoys napping with a small dog dozing in the crook of his arm.
And he squeezes toothpaste from the top of the tube. Always.

**For those who prefer the more nuts and bolts info**
He's the author or co-author of 20 books.
He's got a Ph.D. from one of those big Southern schools.
He also teaches writing to a bunch of super-talented young artists at The Ringling College of Art and Design.
And he's a frequent speaker at schools, businesses, and community centers on issues of the digital age, publishing/writing, and creativity.

For more on Ryan's idiosyncrasies or to just contact the author for any reason, use the CONTACT form at

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