Torn (The Missing, book 4) by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Today's Timeslip Tuesday is Torn, the fourth book in The Missing Series by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Simon & Schuster, 2011 middle grade, 352 pages), book number 79 in my Cybils reading. This series follows the fortunes of a group of children kidnapped from their proper places in time and space, and placed for adoption with 21st century families. This led to negative temporal ramifications, and operatives from the future had to come back to our present so as to restore time to its rightful pattern. The kids must be returned, and one of these children, a boy named Jonah, along with his sister-by-adoption, Katherine, is sent on various missions back in time to do restoration work.

Unfortunately for Jonah and Katherine (and potentially for the whole world), a rouge time-travel agent has come up with a dastardly plan to foil everything, and create a whole new time line....starting at the beginning of the 17th century.

And so, as Torn begins, Jonah and Katherine find themselves trapped on Henry Hudson's last voyage as he desperately seeks for the fabled northwest passage. Jonah assumes the role of Hudson's son, John (one of the time kidnapped children--disruptions to the temporal scheme of things has mysteriously kept him from returning to his own time). Katherine, who has no part to play, is an invisible lurker.

It's not a pretty place to be. The crew is mutinous, and the food, what there is left of it, is foul. Worse than that, though, is Hudson's insane obsession with finding the northwest passage; it has driven him to erratic cruelty. There are dark secrets on board this doomed voyage--and, because time travel is going all wrong, Jonah and Katherine have no way home. Unless, of course, they can set the past back into its proper channel....

I found this the most gripping of the Missing series. The action is contained, perforce, by the shipboard setting, allowing tension to build nicely, and characterization to be emphasised. There's a real sense of menace and mystery to the story of what happened to the doomed members of the expedition. It's a fact that Hudson, his son, and several other men were set adrift in a small boat, while the mutineers sailed away, and to this already fascinating story Haddix brings twists that heighten the suspense even more.

That being said, issues of a time travel sort took center stage toward the end, and confusion (on my part, and on the kids' part too) clouded things somewhat. The ending was perhaps too-fast paced (it became a what-the-heck grand finale of time-travel mayhem). But no matter. Beginnings and middles of books, especially in long running series, are more important, to my mind at least, than endings.

I think this one is the best time travel story of the lot too--again, I think, because of the constraints imposed by the setting--there was less territory to be explored, and a tighter focus. I wouldn't particularly recommend the other books for their educational value, but Torn would make a great fictional companion to the study of European exploration (it has a fascinating author's note too). I was pleased that I wasn't bothered by any details of shipboard life and culture (this could be a case of ignorance being bliss, but I think Haddix did a good job). The only time I was kicked out of the story by disbelief came right at the end, when a time-travelling village of Native Americans was resettled in a nature preserve far in the future....a throwaway bit of loose-end tying up, but one that raised my eyebrows considerably.

Even though I liked this one the best of the series, there's no point in reading it if you haven't read the others--too confusing! The end leaves open the possibility of more books to come, but doesn't demand them. I looked quickly to see if more are planned, but to no avail--does anyone know if there are?

Other time travelers:

Ms. Yingling has a time travel post today too, and Stephanie at Read in a Single Sitting posted a lovely long list of YA time travel books.


  1. I love nearly all of her books, but this is the one series I just couldn't get into, for some reason...

  2. This is one series I have trouble with as well. sometimes it feels as if both the history AND the time travel are afterthoughts. The students all love this, however, and I've heard no complaints from them!

  3. I actually like this one much better than the Among the Hidden et al. series...I think I was hooked by the mystery behind which children go where.

  4. And I think I liked this one best, thinking about it more, because it was a "group of characters in isolation struggling for survival" story, which I like...

  5. I started this series ages ago and STILL haven't read on in it. One day!


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