Tuesday, February 4, 2020

16. Running Out of Time

Running Out of Time. Margaret Peterson Haddix. 1995. 184 pages. [Source: Library] [action, adventure, speculative fiction]

First sentence: The light woke Jessie, though it was just a glimmer downstairs.

Premise/plot: Running Out of Time is a premise-driven, action-packed middle grade coming of age novel. Jessie, our heroine, is thirteen and about to be sent on a mission by her mother with life and death implications.

Jessie’s family is one of the families living in Clifton. To Jessie, it’s home, just home. To the world, however, it’s a tourist attraction, a field trip destination. In 1984, give or take, a group of adults decided to move to this new town, Clifton, and live like it’s the 1800s. (The starting year was in the mid to late 1820s. The year now is 1840.) Jessie’s parents were part of this group. Jessie’s mom is now having major regrets. Their lives are in danger, Jessie must escape and get help.

How will Jessie cope with the real world? Can she find help? Will any adult believe her? Who can she trust?

My thoughts: I was shocked that I only gave this one three stars the first time I read it. Why? Because it’s been almost ten years and I haven’t forgotten the story and characters. The premise intrigued me. The idea of a community living “in the past” and their children and potential grandchildren being clueless that they were being watched as education or entertainment. Something very Truman Show about it (though this was published in 1995). It has a dystopian thriller tone to it.

Technically it may be weak in that it is premise driven. It has a few info dumps that aren’t all that subtle. But I found it compelling all the same. I found Jessie brave and resilient.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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