June 08, 2006


Kidnapped Book I: The Abduction. By Gordon Korman. Scholastic. $4.99.

Rewind. By Linda Dower. Scholastic. $8.99.

     The things that worry young people change as they get older.  Fear of strangers, for example, tends to switch to fascination with strangers as serious dating years arrive – by which time, fear of severe social problems rises.  These changes happen at different ages for different people, and sometimes not at all.  But most readers of certain ages will likely find their worries reflected, rather melodramatically, in these two books.

     The Kidnapped series is planned as a trilogy; The Abduction sets the whole thing up.  Aiden and Meg Falconer, brother and sister, are walking home from school when a van pulls up and someone kidnaps Meg.  Aiden is the only witness, and therefore not only feels responsible but also bears the burden of helping the FBI try to track down his sister and find out who took her and why.  For her part, the plucky Meg needs to try to escape on her own, not knowing who is looking for her or what the chance is of someone finding her.  Neither Meg nor Aiden has much individual personality – one is “the victim,” the other “the would-be rescuer.”  For that reason, The Abduction is more of a puzzle book than an emotionally involving story of fear and mystery.  Meg and Aiden’s parents are somewhat notorious (they are the “possible motive” people), and there is a question whether the kidnappers tried to grab Aiden at the same time as Meg, and there are various red herrings and straw men tossed blithely about.  None of the characters is really worth caring about, but the book’s pacing is certainly TV-quick-cut fast, and The Abduction will please readers ages 9-12 looking for something easy to read and not too mentally or emotionally challenging.  Whether Gordon Korman’s thin story line is worth spreading over an entire trilogy is a question yet to be answered.

     Rewind is for older readers, ages 15 and up, because it deals with the intensity of teenage love affairs and the high-school social scene.  The material is pretty standard fare – the book revolves around shy heroine Cady; Lucas, on whom she has a longstanding crush; and Hope, a friend of Cady who is beautiful and who has Lucas wrapped around her little finger (and other body parts).  What is supposed to intrigue readers here is not so much the tale as the telling: the story starts with drama at the end-of-year prom and then works backward to explore the reasons for the various confrontations – and the personalities of the people involved.  Telling a story in reverse can, in the best of hands, be spectacularly effective: Jorge Luis Borges wrote a tale that starts with a man dying and moves backward through the events leading up to his killing.  Laura Dower, though, has neither the style nor the interesting characters needed to pull off the reverse narrative effectively.  The technique keeps calling attention to itself: just as you get interested in something that seems about to happen, you move to the next chapter – that is, backwards in time – and have to try to reconnect with the narrative.  There is some skill in the writing here, but teens who know from the start how the book ends may not find the in-reverse narrative motion enough reason to keep reading and find out the solutions to mysteries that are, in the final analysis, fairly typical and fairly minor.

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