under lock and key by lookslikerein

Posted on October 14, 2010


Let me begin with the end. Under Lock and Key left me with questions, left me with a sense that made no sense. If I am inside the mind of a grieving girl can I trust what I see, hear, remember?

The story is simple enough. A girl in transition, from childhood to adulthood. With graduation, friends may drift apart, and she may lose people she loves. To help her cope, her best friend introduced the idea of keeping under lock and key items representing significant moments of their lives. Every last Saturday of the month, they would meet in the park and drop another memory into a little box.

So that the memories would fit, they often chose small items: a broken shell, charm bracelet, photos, marbles… I mention this because I can’t help comparing how so much could fit into a small space with how so much heartfelt emotion can fit into less than a hundred pages.

To the author’s credit, the fit was just right, even if I thought once or twice there was danger of melodrama, especially during the girl’s first person voiceover, coming from a point of view where she had come to a sort of acceptance of whatever it is that troubled her. Generally, the narrative was controlled, and the readers never clueless.

And for a person like me, it’s difficult to forget. But what’s even more difficult is to know that it’s only I who remembers what there is to forget in the first place…

It’s difficult to give more details. With such a short story to give more is to give spoilers. And that would be a shame. This story is good, like a bit of nostalgia of youth’s intensity and purity. Even if “Real? Or not real?” haunted me here more than it did in another book (sweet shoutout to whoever guesses the reference).

This story could be set anywhere. In the Philippines, the United States, London… Maybe the author deliberately kept the setting generic, a sort of Zen logic. I loved the book design. On the cover is a closeup of a dragonfly’s wing. Another symbolism I have to make sense of.

I visited the author at http://lookslikerein,deviantart.com and saw photos that could have gone into the book. I wonder why they didn’t? An illustration or two of the lock and two-stemmed key featured in the story would also have been nice. They would have remade the book from a sweet, sad, strange story into an unexpected wonder.

To borrow a literary device from the great Kyusireader, read this book if you like:
–    Young Adult fiction about loss and acceptance of that loss
–    Books about friendship and growing up
–    To support young Filipino authors

Posted in: filipino, mushy