In the year 2035 kidnappings are big business. Every affluent kid knows that being "taken" is a possiblity and that if it happens, remaining calm is the best option. Kidnappers don't want to kill their commodities, and as long as the parents pony up the ransom, most victims are released unharmed within 24 hours. So when thirteen-year-old Charity Meyers finds herself locked in the back of an ambulance, held by unknown men, she doesn't panic. But slowly it becomes clear that something has gone terribly wrong with her ransom. Will the frightening "Dr." Reyes and his young co-hort, a Haitian-American boy Charity knows only as "Dessi" let her go? Will they cut off one of her ears, the same fate that befell one of her classmates when he was taken? Or will her life end in the back of an ambulance while her divorced father and celebrity step-mother hash out whose funds will pay for Charity's release?
Taken by Edward Bloor explores many issues. Among them: affluence versus poverty, racism, the lie of "reality" TV, and the concept of changing the course of one's life. I felt like Bloor could have gone more into depth on each of these issues. Perhaps the one best explored is the concept of videoing "reality." Charity's step-mother is the famous Mickie Meyers, whose documentaries of life in the Highlands (the high security haven--or prison?--in which Charity lives) garner millions of viewers worldwide. But Mickie so manipulates each episode that the carefully edited final version shows little of real life in a world where the have-nots outnumber the haves by far. As a result of this inequality, the poor seem to have only two choices, violence or servitude. Does the pain and injustice of their inequality justify the violence of kidnappings? Bloor seems to leave this issue to the reader. It felt this way on a lot of the themes, which is good in the sense of making the reader think but frustrating because I felt Bloor could have delved further into the isuses he raises and give the reader more information to consider. Perhaps some of this is due to the narrator of our story. Because Charity has always been sheltered from the truth of poverty, it takes awhile for her to realize some of the complexities of the world she lives in.
I'd recommend this book despite a few disappointments. There are some fun twists and turns, and about halfway in, when the ransom drop goes all wrong, the pace really picks up. A few plot twists strained credulity and there was one sort of Scooby Doo moment in which the true identity of a character is revealed in an annoying, "Who is that under that mask, Scooby?!" manner, but I quickly let it go and continued for the story. In the end I wish that this slim book had been longer, but it's given me food for thought.
Recommended for readers who need a science fiction or futuristic tale but don't like heavy technology or scientific concepts. Also good for a book on social issues. Despite the year being 2035, readers will see many parallels between Charity's society and our own.
A final note: The cover could have been so much better. Although the chess pieces tie into the plotline, this fails to show the browsing library patron that this is a book about a kidnapping. It's about a kidnapping, not a chess tournament. I fear this cover will deter readers who might otherwise enjoy the book.