2011 / 197 pages
Third try was the charm... sort of. We found something by a preteen author I'd heard was quite popular, and whose books I'd seen in our Christian school library. But while the book we settled on – Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Found (2008, 314 pages) – wasn't bad, I appreciated it more for being harmless than stupendous. It’s a time travel adventure/mystery, with a bunch of adopted children trying to figure out where they came from. There’s the typical cautions – kids acting behind their parents’ backs, along with a couple passing mentions of evolution – but none of the newer cautions needed. Peterson isn’t advocating for amputative surgeries on youth or adults (as the fellow with the “they/them” pronouns implicitly is, by pretending that gender is changeable), or for alternative lifestyles. The biggest caution I’d have concerns the fact that this is just the first of Peterson’s eight-book The Missing series, and at roughly 300 pages each, even if they all turn out to be mostly harmless, that’s a lot of cotton candy for any kid to be ingesting. I’ll also add a concern about whether this would be good or bad for adoptive kids to read, as the topic of adoption, and kids searching for who they are, is a big part of the story. Finally, as just a general caution on the author, I do know another book (Double Identity) by this author that features a female pastor as a major character. So it was more like one thumb up for this one. But while I'm not going to be continuing with that series, it was still good enough for me to check out more Haddix material.
And now I've found one I think worth recommending. The Always War is a mystery of sorts, set in a world like our own, yet one that has been in a constant war for the last 75 years. We come along for the ride with Tessa, a girl who still reads old stories, even though no one else does anymore. She's at a celebration for a young war hero, a pilot named Gideon, that doesn't go as expected – instead of accepting his award for bravery, Gideon runs off. Why would a hero run away from his adoring and appreciative fellow citizens? Well, as Tessa slowly begins to discover, Gideon doesn't think he's a hero, because he did his arial combat, not from the sky, but from behind a computer – he was flying a drone. And he has discovered that instead of hitting a legitimate military target, he seems to have hit a civilian marketplace. Distraught, Gideon is determined to fly down to the marketplace to offer his repentance, for whatever that's worth. And Tessa comes along for the ride. But he has to go behind the military's back, work with black market privateers, and sneak past his own border guards. Then, when they arrive, nothing is as he expected. There are no angry grieving crowds to meet him. In fact there's nothing at all! So what's going on? What's actually real?
I don't want to give too much more away but will just add I found it an intriguing story. The mystery lasts most of the book, which means that this requires a reader with some patience. As for concerns, God is not a part of this world, and seeing as one of the themes of this story is about discerning reality from what authorities tell us is real, that the characters simply rely on their own wherewithal makes a bit too much of Man. But that's the biggest problem. Kids aged 12 will like this if they appreciate a mystery – they will need to have a little patience to let the story to unfold,