Monday, June 09, 2008

Among the Missing: Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix

It wasn't there. Then it was.

Later, that was how Angela DuPre would describe the airplane--over and over, to one investigator after another--until she was told never to speak of it again.

A plane appears to gate agent Angela DuPre at a gate where no plane is due. On board she finds no lights, no crew, but strapped in the passenger seats are thirty-six babies.

Fast forward almost thirteen years. Jonah's conscientious parents had always told him the story of their miracle baby, which began with a sudden midnight call which told the couple that their adoption had gone through and that they could pick up their new son right away--that very night. Now, just as Jonah is beginning to wish for more information about his origins, he receives a couple of frightening letters, addressed to him and his friend Chip with no return address:
"You are one of the missing,"

"Beware. They are coming back to get you."

Although he decides not to tell his parents about the letters, Jonah has to believe that they have something to do with his life before the adoption, perhaps even a biological parent's efforts to find him. When he asks his father about his birth parents, his dad agreeably contacts the adoption agency, and in Jonah's file the case worker finds a name, James Reardon, and a phone number, inexplicably at the FBI.

The meeting with Reardon only increases his worries. His twelve-year-old sister Katherine, who has insisted on going to the meeting with the family, stealthily uses her cell phone to photograph a document inside Jonah's file on the agent's desk, and with his friend Chip the three try to locate the thirteen-year-olds listed on the document--strangely all but one of whom live in their area. Also among the names listed under "Witnesses" is that of Angela DuPre. When they call, Angela agrees to meet them at the local library, where two men force their way into the conference room where Angela is telling Jonah and Chip about the mysterious airplane and its cargo of three-month-old babies. As the two men fight, Angela and the children escape through a window, but when Jonah goes back inside to alert the library's security staff, the men seem to have vanished without anyone seeing them come or go.

Now Jonah, Chip, and Katerine realize that they are up against something beyond their everyday world. Hoping to establish communication with the other adopted missing children from the plane, Jonah and Katherine persuade their parents to take them to a conference for early teen adoptees in the region. There the three are assigned to a discussion group of thirty-three other thirteen-year-olds, taken on a hike to "think about their identity," and then herded into a cave where they suddenly realize that they are being held against their will.

The adult group leaders tell them that they are from a future time in which humans have mastered time travel and that the adoptees are the result of an attempt to rescue famous children from the past who have disappeared without a trace, children whose sudden removal from history will not set off the time travel "paradox" or "ripple" effect upon the generations which follow. Somehow, however, the leaders admit that their experiment has altered the nature of time and that to save the universe from this time fault, the children must choose to go forward to live in the distant future or return to their own time and face whatever fate was in store for them there. The children look on in confusion and horror as their identities are revealed.

Jonah watched his sister hit a button. The screen reappeared, displaying a chart. It was a seating chart, Jonah realized, like for a classroom. Or an airplane. He stepped down from the bench to get a closer look and squinted at the names.

Seat 1A: Virginia Dare
Seat 1B: Edward V of England
Seat 1C: Richard of Shrewsbury

His eyes skimmed down the list, looking for boys' names, or names that sounded familiar.

9B: John Hudson
10C: Henry Fountain
11A: Anastasia Romanov
12B: Alexis Romanov
12C: Charles Lindbergh III

"That's who you are," JB said quietly. "You're the missing children of history."

The master of middle-reader suspense series, Margaret Peterson Haddix, whose Shadow Children series have long been best-sellers, has just published the first book in her new Missing series, Found (Missing Book 1.) Haddix, whose exciting page-turners are more in the suspense rather than mystery genre, has shown again that she can write novels which develop deliberately until the final chapters erupt in action. Although young readers may favor the conclusion with its futuristic gizmos and weapons, as an adult reader, I found the earlier chapters, in which the characters are developed and the plot develops bit by tantalizing bit, more compelling than the last chapters with their taser battles and time machines. The fast-moving conclusion, however, which ultimately results in the three protagonists being hurled through limbo back toward the fifteenth century, will no doubt keep middle readers waiting expectantly for Book 2.

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  • I just read this book, and loved it! Will be posting about it sometime this next week. I will be linking to your review also.

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