Engaging, suspenseful, and squeaky, Ms. Haddix has done it again in her third installment of her Missing series. In Sabotaged, Jonah and Kathryn are sent back to the lost colony of Roanoke with, you guessed it, Virginia Dare. Only this time things don’t go according to JB’s plans.
The veteran time traveler sends them off as usual, but someone named Second interferes, breaking a lot of time rules in the process. The elucidator promptly disappears, and the kids are thrown off track. They have no idea what year they’ve landed in. And tracers here seem damaged somehow. They certainly don’t behave as tracers usually do. Where are they? WHEN are they? Who’s Second? And what are they supposed to do now?
Sabotaged moves a little more slowly than the other two books did. Questions linger a long time and information is slow in coming. I felt like I was jogging in place through the middle, as the kids don’t really do much for several chapters except ask questions and try to find a familiar tracer. And the historical character of John White had so much potential, but all he does is sleep. He’s a disappointing non-character. Also in this edition, suddenly everything has a tracer–plants, birds, bugs, houses. I thought this element of suspense felt a little contrived.
However, the book also has some wonderful elements. The problems that can arise with time travel are diverse and complex. The possibilities kept me entertained and seriously stretched my imagination. And Ms. Haddix finishes off with an exciting conclusion that contains a completely satisfying explanation and a lot of “ah-ha” moments. And, as in the other books, this one is speckled with moments of depth and wisdom. For example, JB comforts the kids with a pretty wise life philosophy, “…I’ve seen so many ways that wrong things can turn out to be right after all, that bad can lead to good, that no one can get the good without the bad coming first…”
The book also includes some real thought provokers. The kids find themselves in a situation in which they must choose to save a man’s life or follow their training and let time take its natural course. Changing history could create a dangerous paradox, for example, accidentally making it so their parents were never born. “Or you might make other things change – so that, I don’t know… Hitler wins World War II,” Jonah warns. But Second justify his own time-tampering by asking, “What if we make it so that Hitler never starts World War II?”
In the end, Second manages to create the first ever Time Shift which results in the release of a time ripple. The kids get sent whirling off to another year where they must attempt to mend time while JB gets stuck living through the year 1600. His ability to leave hinges on Jonah and Kathryn’s success in the future, as time is all connected. This uncharted territory will be the basis for book four, Torn, which I’m promptly off to locate…