Lock & West is my first foray into the work of author Alexander C. Eberhart, but I can guarantee you that this author has just rocketed to the top of my auto-buy list. Offering up young adult fiction that skillfully and compassionately deals with such subjects matters as eating disorders in males, to mental illness and the effects it has on family is a big task and one this author takes on successfully. Woven into the fabric of his story is a vein of honesty one might expect from a writer who’s been around for many years and who is comfortable taking on subject matters that are rarely discussed. But this author dares to unveil some dark elements in his story and have his characters grapple with them, sometimes unsuccessfully, which leads to pain, loneliness, and panic. However, Eberhart also provides hope and light through friendships, siblings, and extended family who never judge, but do push his men to be honest with themselves despite how grueling a journey that can be.
My heart bled for West. From the moment he exposed his secrets, and they were soul-crushing truths, I knew that his path was going to be fraught with minefields that would derail him no matter how hard he tied to stay in control. The fact that the one boy he really wanted was also undergoing his own version of hell meant these two young men were going to have to reach beyond themselves and each other for help—something neither of them really wanted or understood how to do. Life just seemed to continue to heap more and more trauma on both Lachlan and West and that just made this novel more real for me, for that is the way the world is sometimes for so many of us. Eberhart was able to create not one, but two, characters that became a sort of ‘everyman’ to his readers. People who connected to the reader in ways that are indescribable. You didn’t have to be going through exactly what Lachlan or West were experiencing yourself to understand and share their pain, because their story was so well crafted and realistic, it feel we are going through each event with them–a traveler on their same road.
They spoke and acted like teens living on the edge of a nightmare and in both their circumstances that was a reality for them. With each new fresh bit of hell visited upon these boys, I understood that somehow they would survive and they would have someone there to love them, if not each other, then a close friend or relative. Never did I despair that things were utterly hopeless, and yet I hung in with my heart ready to leap from my chest as I watched both boys slide into a hole that threatened to consume them. This novel was brutally honest, continually inspiring, and so very emotional, making it nearly impossible to put down. I raced to the end of this novel because I could not leave this story unfinished for another moment. I had to know how these guys made it and if they would be together in the end. This was such a good story—impeccably written with voices that spoke of teenage angst, real life drama, and a deep longing just to be loved.
Lock & West is perhaps one of the finest examples of young adult literature on the market today. There are some traumatic moments that deal with what some may find triggering and so the warnings on this book should not be taken lightly. I will say, however, that the author never panders to lurid or needless passages that trivialize the pain the character is experiencing, but rather uses a delicate touch to reveal the devastation such acts leave behind in their wake.
I have deliberately not given you a synopsis of this novel mainly because to do so I feel would detract from your experience with it. I can tell you that the story revolves around two teenage boys who come from vastly different socioeconomic backgrounds and whose personalities could not be further apart, but also whose sense of shared pain puts them on even footing by novel’s end. There is pain and suffering in this story, but there is never a sense of complete despair or belief that things are hopeless. Instead, there are two intelligent young men trying their best to wade through some very murky and tricky waters and just managing to keep their heads above it alI. In the times when they falter and fall, there is someone there to remind them not just that they are loved, but are loveable—two totally different things that the author really gets and communicates well. This is an outstanding work of fiction from beginning to end and one that can honestly highly recommend to you.