August 10, 2006


Kidnapped, Book Two: The Search; Book Three: The Rescue. By Gordon Korman. Scholastic. $4.99 each.

     What happens after The Abduction?  These two books do: they are the second and third parts of Gordon Korman’s saga of the Falconer kids, Aiden and Meg, and their parents, and some exceedingly nasty but also moderately inept kidnappers.

     In the first book, The Abduction, 11-year-old Meg was snatched by persons unknown while walking with her big brother, Aiden, who therefore feels responsible for what happened and is determined, in The Search, to find Meg himself.  He botches pretty much everything he does – middle books of trilogies have a tendency to contain a lot of running back and forth without getting anywhere – but he certainly shows himself to be plucky, determined, and all that.  So does Meg, who becomes a more interesting character here (though not too interesting: everyone in this trilogy is as conventional a type as you can imagine).  Meg spends much of this book trying to escape on her own, and she actually manages to get away, with help from an unlikely source.  Of course, her escape isn’t entirely successful, because that would end the series one book too soon.  But Korman extracts plenty of melodrama from Meg’s plight – even giving her a bittersweet 12th birthday while in captivity.

     Actually, the entire trilogy is melodrama, and will appeal mostly to preteens whose idea of pacing comes from endless TV-watching.  Kidnapped does move quickly, and it’s certainly full of surprises, especially in The Rescue, which features Korman throwing in just about everything from an international terrorist organization to a deus ex machina – or, to be more precise, an ursus ex machina.  Here we have FBI agents at cross-purposes, Aiden in and out of custody, the Falconer parents suddenly assuming considerable importance as a motive for the kidnapping (but not in the action: these adventure books are strictly for the young), plus questions about hackers, scenes of people lost in a cave, and lots more.  It is absolutely impossible to take any of this seriously, and equally impossible to imagine that there will be anything other than a happy ending.  So it spoils nothing to say that Meg is eventually rescued and the kidnappers foiled.

     Older or more sophisticated readers in the target age range of 9-12 will give this series no more than a (++) rating.  But it appears to be directed mostly at younger readers, at people still looking for summertime escapism, and at readers who want the same sorts of quick cuts and shallow motivations in print that they are used to on television.  Kidnapped is worth a (+++) rating for what appears to be its most likely audience.  With any luck, these will be “gateway books,” getting young readers interested in the action-adventure genre and tempting them to seek out better written, more interestingly plotted works in the future.  One can always hope.

No comments:

Post a Comment