Ms. Haddix has created another intriguing, vastly imaginative and clean adventure for middle readers. Jonah and Katherine have been sent to 1611 to fix the Ripple released by Second, a maverick time traveler from the future, in 1605. Their journey lands them on the deck of the Discovery, captained by Henry Hudson the great (or perhaps not so great) explorer. They live through a mutiny, survive being set adrift with no food on icy seas in a small shallop, and even manage to avoid death at the claws of a hungry bear. But have their efforts fixed time, or have they simply made things worse?
This installment of The Missing series is as complicated as the others. Again, all the time rules as we know them are thrown out the window and we’re left wondering what in the world is going on. It’s a little irritating, sometimes, the way the rules change, but then Haddix always has a plausible (in the realm of time travel, anyway) explanation. JB, a more reliable traveler from the future, informs them that mistake after mistake has been made, and only then did they learn that not everything they thought they knew is true. (Got that?)
And that’s where imagination really comes into play. In a period of unraveling time, all natural time laws are skewed. In particular, duplicate objects and people can exist in a shared moment of time. And they learn you CAN live through a moment more than once, but doing so actually SPLITS TIME, leaving two separate editions that flow independently of each other. Sounds crazy? It is! Especially when the kids and JB meet in the same time hollow, JB coming from the future and the kids traveling in linear time, and their exchange of information causes the events JB just lived through!
Again, Torn isn’t a beautiful tale. The writing isn’t at all picturesque or lovely. There’s little in the way of artful literary techniques. But it’s fast-moving fun. And if you’re a skeptic, stop reading before you start. Haddix includes a lot of details that border on ridiculous if you don’t make up your mind to believe her story. (For example, robotic digging machines from the future dig the Northwest passage, translation vaccines enable a person to understand all languages past or present, and disguises that cannot be removed until–viola!–your instantly back in your own clothes.) But Haddix does include a lot of true historical detail in her books, and she takes the time to sort through what’s true and what’s fiction at the end. It is this historical grounding that goes the farthest in authenticating her outrageous tales. Round four, well done!