Thursday, November 12, 2009
Review of Sent by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Sent (The Missing: Book 2). Simon & Schuster, 2009.
In Found (The Missing: Book 1), 13-year-old Jonah, his younger sister Katherine, and Jonah's friend Chip keep one step ahead of their enemies as they try to figure out the link between 36 13-year-old orphans, including Jonah and Chip. By the end of the book, they discover that these children all went missing some time in history - and so instead of facing death, time-travelers from the future snatched them out of danger. Only something went wrong, and all 36 kids arrived in the 21st century as babies in a mysterious incident that the government immediately tried to cover up. All of this caused dangerous time ripples that need to be fixed by sending the children back - except of course they don't want to go back to dangerous lives they don't remember. And so as Found ends, Jonah and Katherine try to anchor Chip and a boy named Alex, but instead find themselves pulled back to 1483 - where Chip and Alex were once known as Edward V and Prince Richard, the Princes in the Tower.
That fast-moving, conspiracy-filled plot made Found a page-turner. Unfortunately, 99% of Sent takes place in the 1480s where the action moves rather more slowly. Yes, there is a bit of political intrigue, the danger of being discovered, and of course the worry that one will affect time adversely. However, it never feels like the kids are in any real danger and thus this reads like a slightly more intense installment of the Magic Tree House series. This is probably due to the fact that the time-traveling adult who is helping, JB, can not only communicate with them but can actually pull them "out of time" when he needs to give them facts or equipment. Speaking of equipment, they have a handy-dandy device called an Elucidator that not only translates the Middle English speech all around them, but can make them invisible. This major cop-out took away a lot of the danger and suspense.
That said, the writing is confident and fluid. Jonah, whose point of view we share, is a practical and likable boy and, while he doesn't exactly glow with charisma and personality, he is certainly believable. Less believable is his cheerleader sister who, though not yet 12 years old, is not only fearless but uses phrases like "perpetuate a stereotype." Chip comes across as a boy with - no surprise - a chip on his shoulder, and Alex is the know-it-all Maynard character. More interesting than the slightly bland characters is a feature of time-travel called "tracers." When a time-traveler causes a person to act differently than he would have without the interference, the tracer is like a ghost, depicting the person still on the course history should have gone - so if I went back in time and bumped into a person on the street, he might stop momentarily while I apologized, but meanwhile his tracer would be continuing down the street as if nothing had happened. It's a fascinating idea, although one that raises more questions the more one thinks about it, which seems to the norm with time-travel concepts (look at all the discussion raised by When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead).
So - compared with the thrilling premise of the first book, this installment was merely a typical travel-back-in-time adventure. It will continue in book 3 with Jonah and Katherine being sent back in time to work out the time kinks caused by the snatching of Virginia Dare back in colonial days. Will some original elements be introduced, or will this series devolve into The Magic Tree House for slightly older kids? Only time will tell.
Recommended for those who read and enjoyed Book 1 - ages 10 - 12.
Posted by Eva M