Ellen and Alexa have survived hangovers, dodgy landlords and most of their twenties together.
But can they survive this?
One Saturday morning, while nursing The Hangover from Hell, a flooded kitchen leads best mates Ellen and Alexa, and hapless housemate Jack, into their attic to turn off the water supply.
But when Ben – Alexa’s date from the night before – walks in, the door slams, the handle breaks and all four of them are trapped.
Cue The Worst morning-after-the-night before.
As the hours tick by, Ellen nurses her sore head and watches as her best friend falls for this handsome stranger.
Only for a horrifying realisation to hit. She is sure she knows Ben from somewhere.
Frantically searching her memories, Ellen tries to piece together exactly how they’ve met before.
When a distant memory finally comes to her, she desperately wonders: could Ben really be who she thinks he is . . .
And more importantly, what on earth is she going to do about it . . .
Every so often you need a breath of bookish fresh air to reinvigorate your reading life. For me that often means turning to genres and books that I don’t read regularly – rom-coms being one of my ‘refresh’ go-to genres. Add in a locked-room element, some nineties nostalgia, and some all-too relatable protagonists, and you’ve got a book that – for me at least – was bookish fresh air and reading fun times stuck between two covers.
The Lock In is the story of millennial housemates Ellen, Alexa, and Jack. Ellen and Alexa have known one another since university – and having survived many a night out and the perils of early adulthood, are now negotiating love, landlords and early career perils in the lively London suburb of New Cross. Housemate Jack, meanwhile, is the slightly wobbly third wheel to Ellen and Alexa’s longstanding friendship.
When Ellen wakes up with the mother of all hangovers to find the kitchen under several inches of water, its the start of a very unusual Saturday. Deciding to search for a stop-cock in the attic (the fuse box was there, makes total sense right?), Ellen and her housemates soon find themselves locked upstairs – along with the charming but worryingly familiar Ben, Alexa’s Hinge date from the night before.
Stuck in the attic with no phone signal, no way out, and a kitchen that is still rapidly filling with water, the novel follows Ellen, Alexa, Jack, and Ben as they attempt to MacGyver their way out of the situation – and keep their relationships intact whilst doing so.
There is a strong element of the ludicrous about The Lock In – the novel is a, at its heart, a Generation Rent farce and, as such, it casts a comical side-eye at many experiences that will be familiar to those who grew up in the nineties, attended university at as the new millennium dawned, and are now rattling through their thirties and wondering when they’re supposed to be ‘grown up’. From MSN Messenger conversations to the CBD period products, Phoebe Luckhurst successfully takes aim at many of the staples of millennial culture whilst also conveying the concerns a generation trapped in cycles of rented housing, dating apps, and entry level jobs.
Given the premise, you do have to suspend disbelief a little to fully appreciate some aspects of The Lock-In. Even at the height of my university years, I doubt I’ve had begun my hunt for the water stop cock in the attic, for example. But get past the more ridiculous elements of the premise – and some of the deus ex machina that conveniently help the plot along it way – and there are plenty of laughs to be had here. I frequently laughed out loud at the situations the hapless housemates found themselves in, and I really enjoyed the interactions between the four main characters.
I also really liked the characters – despite not always seeing them at their best! Whilst I related most to Alexa, I found Jack’s awkwardness and Ben’s good natured-ness charming. Ellen – probably the most complex of the four – provides much of the comedy in the novel, with her slightly spikier personality and ability to place her foot firmly in her mouth at all times. Whilst not always likeable, her fallibility is very relatable – and her decade-long friendship with Alexa is really well portrayed.
Whilst the plot is a little thin on the ground in places – there really is only so much you can do with four people trapped in an attic – The Lock In whips along at a brilliant pace. I read it over a weekend and it would make for the perfect holiday read. The ending was, admittedly, a little disappointing – not because of what happens but because I wasn’t sure how much some of the characters had developed as a result of what happens to them during the book.
That said, I’m not sure you pick up a book like The Lock In for character development and serious meaningful life changes – or at least, that certainly wasn’t why I picked up this book and so those less developed elements didn’t bother me. I wanted a fun read and The Lock In certainly provided that in spades – I chuckled my way through Alexa, Ellen and Jack’s escapades and regularly laughed out loud at certain all-too-relatable paragraphs (reading too much into MSN Messenger conversations? Totally been there).
As a light-hearted and feel-good read about the perils and pitfalls of contemporary life, The Lock In is a perfect comedy balm. As I said at the start of my review, it was a breath of bookish fresh air in my reading life and I’d recommend it to anyone else looking for a feel-good rom com for the millennial generation.
The Lock In by Phoebe Luckhurst is published by Michael Joseph and is available as an ebook now, with hardback publication on 22 July 2021. The book is available to order/pre-order from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.
My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 30 June 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content – and follow #TheLockIn to find out more!
If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green Bookshop, Sam Read Booksellers, Book-ish, Scarthin Books, and Berts Books.
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