One book that is on this year’s book battle list is Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix. This is the first book of Haddix’ new science fiction series titled The Missing: Book 1 and based on the plot’s premise, Haddix’ character development, and her expert pacing, I believe that this series will be as popular with the middle school readers as is her other series The Shadow Children, which includes: Among the Hidden, Among the Free, Among the Brave, and Among the Enemy.
Haddix opens Found with the most improbable prologue: the unexpected, unscheduled appearance of an airplane without a crew but filled with thirty-six passengers: all babies. The exposition begins thirteen years later with the introduction of the story’s main characters. Immediately the reader learns from the third-person narrator that seventh grader, Jonah, is adopted and like most seventh graders, he and his younger sister, Katherine, who is not adopted, are not best friends. In addition, the reader meets Chip, also a seventh grader and a new neighbor of Jonah and his sister. By the end of the first chapter Haddix also introduces the beginnings of the main conflict through a mysterious and cryptic letter that Jonah and Chip both receive in the mail. This letter not only intrigues and unsettles the characters but the reader as well, and while it is fairly obvious that the letters have something to do with the airplane’s appearance thirteen year ago, and the fact that Jonah and Chip are thirteen and adopted, Haddix very masterfully weaves the obvious with the mysterious and leads the characters and readers to a very suspenseful and surprising climax and ending.
Although Haddix’s character development is not what I see as her strongest element in this book, all three main characters are strong enough to make the reader care. She also manages to use her characterization technique to show growth in all three. Even Katherine, who at first I thought was going to be a minor character, shows definite growth from being a bit of a jealous and superficial brat, to a quick thinking and protective sister.
While I thought Found’s pace was going to a bit slower than I normally like, especially in a science fiction or mystery book, I have to admit that the pace did pick up, and by the time I got half way through the story, the plot began to take over, so that it was hard to stop reading. Finally, Haddix did build a strong climax, and an even stronger ending, making sure that the reader would want to continue reading about The Missing in book two.
If you enjoy science fiction and mystery then I am sure that Found will not let you down. Haddix unusual premise puts a real twist on the idea of time travel, and is bound to keep her readers reading the rest of the series.