A few days ago, I was putting away books and three in a row had keys on the cover. Attractive keys, which I’d wear as jewelry! Anyway, I started thinking about keys, and locks, and how they play into book titles and designs. And a booklist was born!
So unlock the secret of these books. Some are mysteries, some are romance, some are coming of age. But every single one of these books features locks or keys or secrets…and some have all three. Check it out!
* * *
Unlock a Secret…
Keys & Locks Booklist
Benz, Derek. The Brimstone Key – Juvenile collection
A year ago, the Grey Griffins were just regular kids—but now they are monster-hunters, celebrated heroes, and allies to the legendary Templar knights. But even heroes have to go to school. When the Griffins enroll at a school to train young recruits in the fight against the forces of evil, they find themselves at the center of a whole new adventure. The Clockwork King, a Templar foe from days past, has returned to finish the plan he set in motion decades ago. Can the Griffins figure out a way to save their world…again?
Berkeley, Jon. The Lightning Key – Juvenile collection
Now that Miles Wednesday has discovered his link to a magical Tiger’s Egg, he’s suddenly at the wheel of a great voyage. Determined to recover the stolen stone and free the trapped soul within, Miles sets off to release the Egg’s true power. But along the way, his travels are quickly riddled with thrills and near catastrophes—from soaring across the sky in an airborne schooner to run-ins with the twisted circus ringmaster to a dark Sleep Angel. Will Miles crack the secrets of the Egg and stand up to the Realm in the face of grave danger?
Brennan, Sarah Rees. Unspoken – Teen collection
Kami Glass is in love with someone she’s never met—a boy she’s talked to in her head since she was born. This has made her an outsider in her sleepy English town, but she has learned ways to turn that to her advantage. When members of the Lynburn family, who ruled the town a generation ago, return, suddenly there’s screaming in the woods and other mysterious problems. Now Kami can see that the town is hiding a multitude of dangerous secrets. The key to it all just might be the boy in her head. The boy she thought was imaginary is definitely real, and deliciously dangerous.
Cashore, Kirstin. Bitterblue – Teen collection
Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is queen. But the influence of her psychopathic father Leuck lives on. Her advisorswant to pardon all and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle in disguise to see her city, she realizes that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past. Two thieves hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.
Clements, Andrew. Janitor’s Boy – Juvenile collection
When Jack Rankin gets busted for defacing a school desk with a huge wad of disgusting watermelon bubble gum, the principal sentences him to three weeks of after-school gum cleanup for the chief custodian. The problem is, Jack’s anger at the chief custodian was the reason for his gum project in the first place. The chief custodian happens to be Jack’s dad. But doing time in the school basement after hours reveals some pretty surprising things: about the school, about Jack’s father, and about Jack himself.
Clements, Andrew. The Keepers of the School – Juvenile collection
Benjamin Pratt’s school is about to become the site of a new amusement park. But Ben thinks it would be better if it just stayed as is. It is over 200 years old and sits right on the harbor, with ocean breezes and million dollar views. After a chance—and final—run-in with the school janitor, Ben starts to discover that these views have a lot to do with the deal to sell the property. As much as the town wants to believe it, the school does not belong to the local government. It belongs to the CHILDREN and they have the right to defend it! With Ben in charge, they will!
Cooper, Susan. The Dark is Rising – Juvenile & Teen collections
On the Midwinter Day that is his eleventh birthday, Will Stanton discovers a special gift; he is the last of the Old Ones, immortals dedicated to keeping the world from domination by the forces of evil, the Dark. At once, he is plunged into a quest to find the six magical Signs that will one day aid the Old Ones in the final battle between the Dark and the Light. And for the twelve days of Christmas, while the Dark is rising, life for Will is full of wonder, terror, and delight.
Dessen, Sarah. Lock and Key – Teen collection
Ruby is used to taking care of herself. But now she’s living in a fancy new house with the sister she hasn’t seen in ten years. She’s attending private school, wearing new clothes, and for the first time, looking forward to a future that includes college and her family. So why is she so wary? And what is her adorable neighbor Nate hiding behind his genial nature? As Ruby starts to see, there’s a big difference between being given help, and being able to accept it. And sometimes, in order to save yourself, you’ve got to reach out to someone else.
Fisher, Catherine. Incarceron – Teen collection
Incarceron is a prison so vast that it contains cells and corridors, metal forests, dilapidated cities, and wildernesses. Sealed for centuries, only one man has ever escaped. Finn is a prisoner there. Although he has no memory of his childhood, he is sure he came from Outside. His link to the Outside, his chance to break free, is Claudia, the warden’s daughter, herself determined to escape an arranged marriage. They are up against impossible odds, but one thing looms above all: Incarceron is alive.
French, Simon. Change the Locks – Juvenile collection
Steven has vague and disturbing memories of being left alone on a road in the middle of nowhere when he was young, but his mother continually avoids answering his questions about their earlier life in an Australian city. Hoping to piece together the fragmented pictures of his childhood, Steven discovers an old newspaper clipping and photograph that forces him to confront the truth about his father’s abandonment, his mother’s struggles, and his own feelings.
Gantos, Jack. Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key – Juvenile & Teen collections
Joey Pigza’s got heart, he’s got a mom who loves him, and he’s got “dud meds,”–the pills that are supposed to even out his mood swings. Sometimes Joey makes bad choices. He learns the hard way that he shouldn’t stick his finger in the pencil sharpener, or swallow his house key, or run with scissors. Joey ends up bouncing around a lot – and eventually he bounces himself all the way downtown, into the district special-ed program, which could be the end of the line. As Joey knows, if he keeps making bad choices, he could just fall between the cracks for good. But he is determined not to let that happen.
Grant, Michael. Magnificent 12: The Key – Juvenile collection
Mack hates doing homework (that’s what golems are for), but it seems that the only way to defeat the Pale Queen and her evil daughter is to learn the magical language of Vargran. Mack and his friends travel to Europe to find the Key, an engraved stone that unlocks the power of Vargran. Can they locate the invisible castle of William “Blisterthöng” MacGuffin, who guards the Key? Mack has less than thirty days to master Vargran and defeat the evil queen. Will the Key be enough? Or is there something else Mack must find in order to save the world?
Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Into the Gauntlet – Juvenile collection
Throughout the hunt for the 39 Clues, Amy and Dan Cahill have uncovered history’s greatest mysteries and their family’s deadliest secrets. But are they ready to face the truth about the Cahills and the key to their unmatched power? After a whirlwind race that has taken them across five continents, Amy and Dan face the most the difficult challenge yet. When faced with a choice that could change the future of the world, can two kids succeed where 500 years worth of famous ancestors failed?
Hardinge, Frances. Fly By Night – Juvenile collection
Taught to read by her father, orphaned book lover Mosca Mye lives in a realm where books are considered dangerous . When a traveling poet-spy passes through her village, Mosca becomes his traveling companion, serving as his uneasy accomplice in a mission that exposes the cutthroat intrigues of her troubled kingdom. While she tries to judge right from wrong within the complex plots that ensnare her, Mosca discovers that few of the people she meets are as simple as they first seem.
Haven, Paul. The Seven Keys of Balabad – Juvenile collection
Balabad, the birthplace of the Brotherhood of Arachosia, an international secret society, is rumored to be the secret hiding place of the grand. It’s also the boring country Oliver Finch calls home. When a sacred carpet is stolen and one of the few friends he has disappears, Oliver is determined to figure out what exactly is going on. In order to do that he’ll have consult with a one-eyed warrior, track down the far-flung members of the Brotherhood, and unlock a centuries-old secret! Suddenly, life in Balabad for Oliver has become a whole lot more interesting . . . and dangerous.
Hawking, Lucy. George’s Secret Key to the Universe – Juvenile collection
When George’s new neighbor, Eric, turns out to be a brilliant scientist with a supercomputer, the boy takes an educational journey through the solar system and discovers how interesting outer space can be. A rival scientist, who also happens to be George’s teacher, steals the computer and sends Eric into a black hole, leaving George to save the day.
Hurst, Carol Otis. Through the Lock – Juvenile collection
Etta and her brother and sister, wards of the state of Massachusetts in 1840, have been parceled off to separate foster homes. Determined to gather her family back together and create a secure home for them, Etta has run away to find a place where they can live as a family. She encounters Walter, another runaway hiding in a cabin on the New Haven and Northampton Canal. Before she can get her own family together, Etta is caught up in Walter’s problems, which include the bringing a body up a mountain at night, convincing the canal company to hire them as a security team, and catching the vandals who are determined to sabotage the canal.
Johnson, Maureen. Suite Scarlett – Teen collection
Scarlett Martin’s family owns a small hotel in the heart of New York City, and Scarlett lives there with her four siblings. For Scarlett’s fifteenth birthday, she gets the responsibility of caring for the Empire Suite and permanent guest Mrs. Amberson. Scarlett doesn’t quite know what to make of the C-list starlet, world traveler, and aspiring autobiographer who wants to take over her life. Her summer takes a second unexpected turn when she meets a handsome aspiring actor. Before the summer is over, Scarlett will have to survive a whirlwind of thievery, Broadway glamour, romantic missteps, and theatrical deceptions. Also read the sequel: Scarlett Fever.
Key, Alexander. The Forgotten Door – Juvenile collection
A boy falls through a mysterious door and finds himself alone in a forest. Although he is able to talk to animals and read minds, he finds himself in trouble when he cannot communicate with the people surrounding him. Will he ever recover his memory and find a way to unlock the secrets of his life?
LaFleur, Suzanne. Eight Keys – Juvenile collection
Elise and Franklin have always been best friends. Since her parents died when she was young, Elise lives with her loving Uncle and Aunt. Behind their big house is a barn with eight locked doors on the second floor. When Elise and Franklin start middle school, things feel all wrong. Bullying. Not fitting in. Franklin suddenly seems babyish. Then, soon after her twelfth birthday, Elise receives a mysterious key left for her by her father. A key that unlocks one of the eight doors upstairs in the barn . . .
Lanthier, Jennifer. The Mystery of the Martello Tower – Juvenile collection
Hazel and Ned are home for summer vacation and looking forward to long, lazy days that include spending time with their father. But when he disappears, their summer plunges into chaos. The babysitter leaves, their apartment is burgled, and two menacing thugs start turning up everywhere. Ned and Hazel try escaping to an island castle belonging to long-lost relatives. As they work to untangle the threads that ensnare their father, they learn of a second secret surrounding their mother’s death years ago. Only by solving both mysteries can they bring their father home.
Lisle, Holly. The Ruby Key – Juvenile collection
Genna and her brother Dan live in the primitive village, surrounded by danger. Like other humans, they can go out only in daylight, and they have an uneasy truce with the nightlings, creatures of the nearby forest who only come out after dark. All are ruled by Letrin, an arrogant and powerful being who lives underground. But when Genna and Dan venture into the old forest one night, they encounter a Nightling slave who reveals a terrifying secret: their village chief has made a dangerous deal with Letrin, offering the lives of his people in exchange for his own immortality.
Malone, Marianne. The Sixty-Eight Rooms – Juvenile collection
Almost everybody who has grown up in Chicago knows about the Thorne Rooms. Housed deep inside the Chicago Art Institute they are a collection of 68 exquisitely crafted miniature rooms. Each room is set in a different historic period, and every detail is perfect. Some might even say, the rooms are magic. Imagine—what if on a field trip, you discovered a key that allowed you to shrink so that you could sneak inside and explore the rooms’ secrets? What if you discovered that others had done so before you? And that someone had left something important behind..?
Mass, Wendy. Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life – Juvenile and Teen collections
Jeremy’s summer takes an unexpected turn when a mysterious wooden box with a note that says it holds the meaning of life arrives in the mail. He’s supposed to open it on his birthday, but the keys are missing, and the box is made so that what’s inside will be destroyed without the keys. Jeremy and his friend Lizzy set off to find them, and they soon discover that there might be other ways of finding out the meaning of life.
Nation, Kaleb. Bran Hambric: The Specter Key – Juvenile collection
Bran Hambric believes that the Farfield Curse is over. But when he discovers a safe-deposit box in his dead mother’s name, Bran’s past comes rushing back. Now he’s on a frightening path that puts everyone he cares about in danger. When his best friend Astara is kidnapped, Bran will do whatever it takes to save her and prevent the evil mage on his trail from claiming the power of the curse for herself. But will the magic destroy him the way it destroyed his mother?
Nix, Garth. The Keys to the Kingdom – Juvenile & Teen collections
Seven days. Seven keys. Seven virtues. Seven sins. One mysterious house is the doorway to a very mysterious world — where one boy is about to venture and unlock a number of fantastical secrets. During a running exercise at school, Arthur Penhaligon collapses from an asthma attack. Upon awakening, he meets a stranger, Mister Monday, who hands Arthur an unusual key which begins a wild adventure. Using the powers of the key, Arthur travels to another realm and battles many evil creatures in a struggle to save his world from a mysterious disease.
Pearce, Jackson. Sweetly – Juvenile & Teen collections
Years ago, Ansel, Gretchen, and Gretchen’s twin ventured into the woods near their home in search of a witch. After being chased by a monster, only Ansel and Gretchen come out; their sister is never seen again. Their mother dies of grief and their father remarries. And when their father dies, Ansel and Gretchen’s stepmother kicks them out. They find a home with a beautiful chocolatier, but Gretchen’s childhood fears come back to haunt her. With new friend Samuel, she must figure out how to stop this monster and uncover the mystery behind the way it chooses its victims.
Perro, Bryan. Amos Daragon; The Key of Braha – Juvenile collection
Amos survived his first mission, but an encounter with a mysterious girl sends him on his way to Braha, the City of the Dead, where souls await judgment. Amos, now a spirit himself, meets Jerik, a decapitated criminal who carries his head. Jerik says that Braha is overcrowded with spirits; the gods have shut the doors. A key will unlock them, but its missing. Only someone who dies and comes back to life can find it. Will Amos be that someone? Will his ingenuity and intelligence be enough to restore order? And even if Amos finds the key, will he ever return to the land of the living?
Roberts, Laura Peyton. Green – Juvenile collection
Turning thirteen starts off with a bang for Lily when a present explodes! Soon after, a trio of leprechauns appear and whisk her away to a land of clover, piskies, a new friend, a cute boy, and lots of glimmering, glittering gold. A world of Green. It turns out that Lily, like her grandmother before her, is next in line to be keeper for the Clan of Green,in charge of all their gold. IF she passes three tests. And she has to pass them. Because if she doesn’t she may never get to go home again…
Rodda, Emily. The Key to Rondo – Juvenile collection
There are three rules to the old, painted music box: Wind the box three times only. Never shut the box when the music is playing. Never move the box before the music stops. Leo wouldn’t dream of breaking these rules, but does his stubborn cousin Mimi listen? She winds the box four times–and suddenly the paintings on its side come to life and a powerful witch is released. Now it’s up to Leo and Mimi to stop the witch, if only they can find the key to the music box–and the magical world it controls.
Sage, Angie. Magyk – Juvenile collection
Septimus Heap, the seventh son of a seventh son, disappears the night he is born, and is pronounced dead by the midwife. That same night, the baby’s father, Silas Heap, comes across an abandoned child in the snow — a newborn girl with violet eyes. The Heaps take her into their home, name her Jenna, and raise her as their own. But who is this mysterious baby girl, and what really happened to their beloved son Septimus?
Selznick, Brian. The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Juvenile & Teen collections
Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo’s undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo’s dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.
Tubb, Kristin O’Donnel. The 13th Sign – Juvenile collection
What if there was a 13th zodiac sign? What if you’re no longer Sagittarius, but Ophiuchus, the healer, the 13th sign. Your personality has changed. So has your mom’s and your best friend’s. What about the rest of the world? What if you were the one who accidentally unlocked the 13th sign, causing this world-altering change, and infuriating the other 12 signs? Jalen did it, and now she must use every ounce of her strength and cunning to send the signs back where they belong. Lives–including her own–depend upon it.
* * *
Everyone I know has at least one key that they can’t identify. These books take into account the questions you might have if you find a mysterious key. Where did it come from? What does it unlock? What is on the other side of that lock? If you like keys for the sake of their history, beauty and mystery, try one of these books and imagine what you could unlock with a secret key…