Monday, March 01, 2010

Even Without the Vicodin, This One's A Dud

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for Sent, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from Found. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Before I begin this review, I should make two things clear: (1) I love historical fiction and (2) I adore Margaret Peterson Haddix. So, how exactly, did Sent, the much-anticipated (by moi, anyway) follow-up to Found, go so wrong for me? I think it has something to do with the fact that the storyline I found so original in the first book somehow morphed into a Magic Treehouse-clone in the second. I mean, the whole babies-alone-in-an-airplane thing creeped me out, but in a wholly original, deliciously disturbing kind of way. The time-travel-but-be-sure-not-to-change-anything-and-let's-teach-kids-about-history-while-we're-at-it deal? It's been done. About a million times.
If you have no idea what I'm talking about, let's retrace our steps: First, came Found, in which several adopted teenagers find out they're part of a group of babies who made a mysterious arrival at a local airport aboard a pilotless flight. Then, said teenagers discover that, thanks to a time-controlling-maniac, they've actually been stolen from their rightful places in history. In other words, each one of the babies aboard the strange flight is a famous child - an endangered kid - from various times in the world's past. Now, in Sent, several of the kids find themselves in a position to reverse what's been done to them. The question is, what happens when you change history?

Sent begins when two boys - Chip and Alex - are shoved out of "real" time into the past. Terrified for their friends, 13-year-old Jonah and his sister Katherine grab on for the ride. The foursome find themselves plopped into 15th Century England. Chip and Alex find their new surroundings weirdly familiar. After all, Chip is really Edward V, England's boy king, and Alex is his younger brother, Richard, Duke of York. Jonah and Katherine, who never belonged in this time period, can't wait to leave the stinky, dirty time period. They can't get out without Chip and Alex, though, so they're stuck for the time being. In the meantime, the kids need to figure out how to save Edward V and Richard from being assasinated by their power-hungry uncle, Richard of Gloucester. They also need to navigate the complexities of the 15th Century to figure out how to eat, bathe, and survive in a world very much different from the one they've left behind.

Sent, which grew from such a clever premise, soon becomes a time travel tale like any other. Jonah and Katherine have to figure out how to save their friends from the dangers of court; Chip and Alex become more and more enmeshed in their own time period; all the while, the kids have to decide if it's really worth it to mess with history and how much they can change things without completely destroying the past. The story seems to exist only to teach kids about history. Action gets swallowed up in historical detail, the complexity of which slows the tale down to a yawn-worthy crawl. I did read part of this book while under the influence of Vicodin, but still - it got slow, dull and predictable awfully fast. After enjoying Found so immensely, I was really disappointed in its successor. My faith in Haddix, however, is strong. I know if she can breathe some life into the next installment, she can save this series. All the next books need is a little of the originality and adventure that drives the first book and voila! you've got another fun, interesting, exciting series of historical stories for kids. If anyone can do it, it's the indomitable Margaret Peterson Haddix.

(Readalikes: It really is like a middle grade version of The Magic Treehouse books)

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for mild violence

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find






4 comments:

  1. I love this review title! I've got both of the books in this series on my Kindle (I think) to be read in the who-knows-when future. Babies on a plane? Really? LOL Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Susan. Hope you are feeling better and better every day. :-)

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  2. It definitely didn't live up to the first one's excellence. I hope the next one is better, too.

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  3. I am glad I am not the only one who felt this way. Loved Found and had to sturggle through Sent. I hope the next one is back to Found's excellence.

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  4. My boys loved this book and came home jumping out their shorts because the book fair is going to have the next book on sale. I see you're doing a give away, but I don't think they'll be willing to wait.

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