Found (The Missing, Book 1) by Margaret Peterson Haddix
I started this book with much anticipation. It’s certainly had plenty of hype. When people find out you read children’s books or YA, this is one of the books they ask you if you’ve read. It certainly started out strong, with mysterious disappearances and foreboding letters and people who seemed to come from nowhere. I was interested if not incredibly invested. But once Haddix revealed her big twist, the main driving force of the book, the what and the why of it all, I did not care one whit. Instead, I was a bit annoyed that I’d wasted all that energy being excited and interested. The next in the series does not tempt me in the least.
So do I think kids will like it? Sure, the first part of the book is engaging and fast-paced. Whether or not they’ll sustain attention and interest for the ending scenes is another question entirely. Things get complicated and without a burning desire to understand what is going on, some readers will end up skimming the end of the book. While the book does have a lot of tension it is not gory and only incidentally violent. It relies mainly on mood to make you feel anxious, so kids prone to worry may find it stressful while others will only find it tantalizing.
Adoption Issues: Jonah’s adoption records are sealed so he doesn’t know who his parents are. He talks about not understanding what “sealed” meant when he was little. Another character learns he was adopted and that his parents never told him. He feels betrayed (obviously) and like he can’t trust them. The adopted children wonder if their parents are druggies, alcoholics, mental patients or criminals or just regular people. Jonah gets pressure from his sister to not ask more questions about his adoption. There’s mention of children being smuggled into the country and how rich people who are desperate for children will pay poor people almost anything to get them. The end of the book, after the twist, involves the brainwashing of potential adoptees so their parents won’t have to deal with their issues.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – Chip asks if Jonah could date his own sister since they’re not biologically related (luckily the answer is “ew, no”). Chip also suggests that Jonah play basketball because basketball players get all the chicks. Jonah’s father once told him “you can ask me anything about puberty.” Katherine isn’t sure if she wants to be thought of as a hottie. Kids date and break up.
Profanity – “screw up,” “morons,” “idiots,”
Death, Violence and Gore – Chip shoves Jonah. A character is tackled by another and afterward his jaw feels broken. A kid imagines he will be bound and gagged. Two men fight and one gets his head slammed into a stone floor. A kid grabs the attacker’s arm and prevents him from throwing another punch. A girl grabs a man by the hair. A gun is shot, but the kids can’t see if a bullet went anywhere. Two girls are held hostage during a standoff. A gun is pointed at children. A man is shot with a Taser and lies on the ground twitching. Some type of barb is in the chest of one man. A boy shoves a woman forward. Children are forced to watch a video including violent scenes from the past such as: people being beheaded, stabbing infants to death with swords, living people are buried alive with dead bodies, a hail of gunfire raining down on children. Some people want to place the children in a situation that would mean inevitable death at an early age. There’s a discussion about nuclear explosions and the potential fallout. A girl gets shot with a Taser. A boy attacks a man by grabbing his hair and poking his eyes. He gets thrown against a rock wall.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – Angela is not allowed to even mention planes crashing. The content of the letters Chip and Jonah get is fairly sinister. Jonah worries that a Mountain Dew might be laced with poison or drugs. Then end of the book involves a lot of tension and some screaming in terror.