Literary Criticism and Significance
Recently, many of Walter Dean Myers’s novels about the struggles of teens growing up in harsh environments have received underwhelming reviews because of their redundancy. However, Lockdown, published in 2010, has stood out from the author’s newer works and has been compared to his earlier acclaimed novels, such as Fallen Angels and Monster. Lockdown has garnered more favorable reviews because of its realistic portrayal of life inside a juvenile detention facility. Myers draws from his experience teaching and talking to troubled imprisoned youths to create Reese Anderson, Lockdown’s protagonist. Reese is likable not only because of his desire to create a successful life for himself and his little sister but also because of his willingness to accept responsibility for the poor choices he has made. In her review for The Chicago Tribune, Kristin Kloberdanz notes that Reese never once comes across as a victim, but he does elicit sympathy from readers because of his determination to defend the helpless and to change his fate.
Lockdown is also unique in its portrayal of a little-known part of history. Myers creates Mr. Hooft, a Dutch immigrant, to tell the story of the Japanese occupation of the island of Java during World War II and the imprisonment of hundreds of Dutch islanders in Japanese camps. The conversations between Mr. Hooft and Reese are historically interesting, and they also illuminate the similarities that can exist between two people despite a generation gap.
Overall, Lockdown is a riveting, informative read for young adults. Myers reveals his quick sense of humor through Reese and Play’s one-liners and his understanding of strained family dynamics through Reese’s negligent, selfish parents.