Locked Out Lily by Nick Lake is both a deliciously spooky adventure and a journey into one girl’s fragile psyche. Lily is struggling with both a potentially fatal illness and the impending arrival of a new sibling. Sent to stay with her gran while her parents await the new baby in hospital, she broods that the baby is intended to replace her sickly self. That turns out to be the least of her troubles, when she returns home to find her parents have themselves been replaced by sinister dead-eyed doppelgangers. Ousting the imposters will require Lily to confront her innermost fears.
On first returning to her home, Lily finds it dark and unwelcoming. The windows are black holes, as if ‘someone had put out its eyes.’ Her house doesn’t want her. Lily’s mother appears in the doorway with the new baby. The baby’s eyes are still and black. As are both her parents’. Her father’s voice is ‘cold and flat as a tile.’
‘Oh, of course…you’re the daughter. But, no, you don’t live here anymore.’
In this spine-tingling scene, Lily is left standing in the shadowy garden, ‘a little world encircled by nothingness.’
There is magic afoot, and thankfully not just the dark kind. Help is at hand in the form of a mole, a snake, a mouse, and a crow (they speak of course). Appearing at Lily’s moment of need they tell her that she must defeat the ‘replacements.’ They will help her but the solution, as in all the best children’s adventures, ‘is inside you, my dear.’
Wonderfully atmospheric, Locked Out Lily is a story of acceptance and change. Accompanied by the stunning monochrome illustrations of Kate Greenaway medal winner, Emily Gravett, the frisson-inducing plot is leavened by the humorous antics of the unexpectedly wise woodland creatures.
A perceptive take on magic and the subconscious.
Locked Out Lily by Nick Lake is published by Simon & Schuster Children’s UK, 240 pages.