By Margaret Peterson Haddix
Simon & Schuster, 2008
Found is the first book in The Missing, a popular science fiction series for middle schoolers.
A mysterious plane appears without warning at an empty airline gate, with no pilot or crew. When the gate crew open the door there is no one there -- except 36 babies. Before the babies can even be offloaded, there are numerous government agencies starting investigations, but somehow the plane still manages to vanish without a trace shortly after the last baby is carried off.
Thirteen years later, the mystery is still not any closer to being solved, and due to careful government cover-up few people even know about the vanishing plane. This includes the adopted families of the babies, and the babies themselves -- now young teenagers. This changes when the adoptees start receiving mysterious letters telling them that someone is coming for them, and finding notes with the phone number of an FBI agent who worked on the case. An FBI agent, it turns out, that does not want to talk to them.
This is a pretty good book. It has a lot of adventure, but is grounded by the main characters, who remain 'normal kids' even when adventuring through time. Because most of the main characters are the babies from the plane, now young teenagers, there is a lot of talk about adoption and how the different kids relate to being adopted. Oddly, none of them are really okay with it, which is not what I would normally expect from a book for kids.
The writing is a just a bit clunky, and sometimes overly wordy. I have found that some fifth graders have difficulty making it through the first few chapters, but most kids who stick with it like the series a lot. It gives off a Magic Tree House for older kids vibe, which most American school children can appreciate. I did not enjoy this series as much as some of Haddix's earlier series, but this is largely because the science fiction aspect is not very carefully thought out.
The time travel aspects of plot are not well planned out. There are a number of odd rules about what time travelers can and cannot do, and odd places "out-side-of-time" that were clearly invented just to support the plot. While many of these don't make a lot of sense, they appear to be internally consistent, at least as far as they are explained. Moreover, this is all age-appropriate, and the kids' adventures don't suffer. The second book promises to get into a bit more adventure through time and a bit less of the technical stuff, which is a good thing.
Overall, I would recommend this for young SF fans, particularly those who like a good, complex world and a good bit of mystery. I would not particularly recommend this for those adults who like young adult SF/F, as these books are not quite as well-written as many of the popular books of that genre.
The next book in the series is Sent.