It's a little hard to believe that over four years have passed since I read and reviewed Found, the first book of The Missing series, by Margaret Peterson Haddix (I think my reviews are in general much better now!). It's stuck in my mind vividly--the mysterious plane filled with babies, who we find out are children kidnapped from history--children who would otherwise have died. The children are adopted by 21st century families, and all is well....until agents of time enforcement arrive to stabilize history by returning the children to their rightful places.
Caught, the fifth book of the series (Simon & Schuster, 2012) begins, Jonah (one of the time kidnapped kids) and his adopted sister, Katherine, have travelled back in time on numerous occasions, accompanying children being returned. But it hasn't helped Time recover at all--instead, due to the machinations of hostile individuals, and the difficulties of time travel, history is in worse shape then ever, and Jonah and Katherine have been told that their time travelling is finished for now.
Not true. Albert Einstein has gotten off on the wrong research path--he's hotly pursuing time travel, instead of general relativity, and Jonah and Katherine must travel back in time to somehow set that right. But when they arrive at Einstein's house, they are confronted with a more immediate mystery involving the out-of-wedlock daughter of Albert Einstein and his first wife, Mileva, who has been kept a secret, hidden with Mileva's parents in Serbia. Back in 1903, Lieserl, the daughter, isn't missing yet, but she is dying of scarlet fever. Jonah and Katherine, shadowing Mileva, arrive in Serbia just in time to see Lieserl being kidnapped by the unscrupulous time travellers responsible for the whole mess (Einstein's daughter would fetch a good price on the adoption market of the future).
But the 21st century version of Lieserl is back in time too, as a twelve year old named Emily. Mileva (a formidably intelligent woman) figures out what's happening, and is faced with a horrible choice. Does she keep her daughter, and let time go to heck, or can she (without a whole lot of help from the 21st century kids) somehow find a solution that will unsnarl time, without destroying every hope of her own happiness?
Although the sci fi fun and games of technology-driven time travel still are an integral part of the plot, this book is primarily Mileva's story And it's worth reading in its own right, even if you haven't read the others, for her complex, conflicted character, especially in relationship to Albert Einstein. It's emotionally powerful, and educational to boot (and not just because it has a fascinating author's note!).
I have to confess that at this point in the series I am letting the time catastrophe aspect of things just drift by in the background, without making much mental effort to Understand what's happening. But on a more straightforward time travel level, Haddix does an excellent job making vivid differences in attitudes and social mores between the present and the past.
In short--this is my favorite book of the series so far, and one that can be read as a stand alone by a reader willing to let a certain amount of confusion wash over them.
(disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher for Cybils consideration)