Bloor (Tangerine) shows top form with a gripping novel, set 30 years in the future, that works as both a thriller and a commentary on the dangerously growing gap between America's rich and poor. Thirteen-year-old Charity Meyers lives with her father, a dermatologist whose wealth has survived the World Credit Crash, and her stepmother, a noxious "vidscreen" personality. Despite all the precautions within the Meyers' high-security housing development, Charity is kidnapped on New Year's Day 2036-the "taken" of the title, also a chess allusion to a didn't-see-it-coming plot twist. Because child-snatching is a major growth industry in South Florida, Charity has been trained to handle the stress and she knows what should happen. Within 24 hours, her parents will empty their home vault of its currency, and she will be freed. Pacing the narrative so readers can feel the clock ticking, the author fills in Charity's back story-the ironic death of her mother to skin cancer, her days at "satschool," where education comes beamed in from an elite Manhattan academy, her home run by Albert and Victoria, the butler and maid whose very names are regulated by Royal Domestic Services. Bloor, whose gimlet-eyed view of modern society has occasionally pushed his narratives to extremes, reigns in the satire to concoct a plausible-enough scenario of the not-too-distant future, adding just the right measure of consciousness-raising in the dialogue between Charity and a teenage abductor. Deftly constructed, this is as riveting as it is thought-provoking. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Imagine the insular, privileged, suburban subdivision of Bloor’s masterpiece Tangerine fast-forwarded to 2035. Thirteen-year-old Charity Meyers lives in a Florida gated community where she attends an elite “satschool” through a “vidscreen” satellite connection; at home she is waited on by a maid and butler/ bodyguard provided by the pseudo-British “Royal Domestic Service.” All these layers of protection are supposed to prevent Charity from becoming the latest wealthy kidnapping victim, but on New Year’s Day, they fail. Charity is “taken,” and the clock begins ticking until her father and estranged stepmother can provide the ransom payment that will save her life. The novel alternates between Charity’s interactions with her young, revolutionary kidnapper and her reminiscences of the days preceding her kidnapping, in which she enjoyed the class-based pampering that Dessi and his co-conspirators are now rudely and violently threatening. This succeeds both as a riveting, fast-paced, page-turning thriller and as a scathing piece of thought-provoking social commentary, for the creepy, futuristic world Bloor depicts here is, alarmingly, not that distant from our own. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
VOYA - Snow Wildsmith
In the near future, the children of the rich and powerful live in constant danger of being kidnapped. They are trained in proper protocol for dealing with kidnappers-do not antagonize, do not cause trouble-so that they will know what to do while their ransom is being negotiated. Charity Meyers has done everything she can think of to be a good hostage, but her kidnappers might be after something more than mere ransom. Bloor often focuses on the disparity between rich and poor, white and nonwhite in the United States, and his newest book is his least subtle at spreading that message. The rich, mostly white youth in Charity's neighborhood are spoiled and unmotivated, whereas those in the nonwhite, poorer neighborhood are interesting and colorful. Some mention is made that "poor does not equal good," but that statement is not followed through in the plot. Characterization is minimal and often stereotypical, although Charity is an interesting main character. She is clueless about the realities of the world outside her enclave, and savvy readers will realize that she is wrong in many of her assumptions. It is a fast read, even with multiple flashbacks, and there are some real surprises that will keep teens reading. The violence is not graphic, and there is little coarse language, making a good fit for middle school readers. But the effect for which Bloor seems to be striving-opening readers' eyes to the divisions in society-is muted by a heavy-handed tone.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up
Bloor has written another dark thriller, this one set in the year 2036, when kidnapping is an industry in the United States. When Charity Meyers wakes up in the back of an ambulance, all strapped in, she realizes that she's been taken and that she has only about 12 hours left to live if things don't go according to plan. As the hours go by and the kidnappers' Plan A turns into tragedy, the teen discovers that she can't always count on her instincts about whom to trust. Fast paced and suspenseful, and alternating back and forth between a particular day that Charity chooses to focus on instead of what's happening and the present, the story will keep readers totally involved. However, Charity is the only developed character; most of the others are explored only peripherally through her eyes, leaving readers wanting more and not quite understanding all of their connections. A satisfying conclusion and a good story arc make this a quick read. Although it has elements of dystopian science fiction, it is more of a suspense novel than anything else.
Sharon Senser McKellarCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Read an Excerpt
Once you’ve been taken, you usually have twenty-four hours left to live. By my reckoning, that meant I had about twelve hours remaining. The blue numerals on my vidscreen showed the time, 11:31, and the date, 01-01-36. From where I was lying, the blue glow of the vidscreen provided the only color in the room. If it was a room. Other than the screen, all I could see were white walls. All I could hear was a low thrumming, like an engine.
Ever since I’d come to my senses, though, I’d felt strangely calm. Not like a sedated calm, either, although I had definitely been sedated. No, it was more of a logical calm. I was trying not to panic; trying to think things through. I was not in this room of my own free will. Therefore, I was a prisoner. Logically, then, I must have been “taken,” the popular euphemism for “kidnapped.”
If you lived in The Highlands, like I did, then you were an expert on kidnapping. I even wrote a paper on the subject. It was filed right there on my vidscreen, along with the other papers I had written last term: “The World Credit Crash,” “Metric at Midnight, 2031,” and “The Kidnapping Industry.”
I tried to sit up, but I couldn’t. I had a strap tied around my waist, holding me to the bed. Or was it a stretcher? Yes, I remembered. It was a stretcher. I could move my arms, at least. I could reach over and press MENU. The screen was still active, but it looked like all input and output functions had been disabled. Not surprising, if I had been taken. My own files, though, were still accessible to me. I located my recent term papers and clicked on the pertinent one. Here is part of what it said:
The Kidnapping Industry,by Charity Meyers
Mrs.Veck, Grades 7—8
August 30, 2035
Kidnapping has become a major growth industry. Like any industry, though, it is subject to the rules of the marketplace. Rule number one is that the industry must satisfy the needs of its customers.That is, if parents follow the instructions and deliver the currency to the kidnappers, the kidnappers must deliver the taken child back to the parents. If the kidnappers do not fulfill their part of the bargain, then future parents will hear about it, and they will refuse to pay. The trust between the kidnappers and the parents will have broken down. The kidnapping industry today in most areas of the United States usually operates on a twentyfour- hour cycle (although a twelve-hour cycle is not uncommon in areas outside of the United States). In the majority (85%) of cases, the parents deliver the currency and the kidnappers return the child within the twenty-four-hour period. Kidnappers’ demands usually include a warning to parents not to contact the authorities. It is hard to estimate, therefore, how many parents have actually received ransom instructions and obeyed them to the letter. Professional kidnappers always include a Plan B in their instructions, describing a second meeting place in case the first falls through. In a minority (12%) of cases, unprofessional crews have murdered their victims right away and continued the ransom process dishonestly. Several related industries have emerged as a result of the rise in kidnappings. For example, special security companies now track victims who have not been returned but who are thought to be still alive. These companies can gain access to FBI data. Unlike the FBI, however, these companies are willing to search for taken children in unsecured areas of the United States and in foreign countries.
The paper went on from there to describe common aftereffects on taken children and to cite many alarming statistics about kidnapping, supplied by the stateofflorida.gov and TheHighlands.biz content sites. Cases of reported kidnappings increased by 22 percent in the last three years. However, estimates are that unreported kidnappings increased as much as 800 percent in the same time period. The statistics only reinforced what I already knew. It’s what every kid knew: if kidnappers identify your parents as people with a lot of currency in their home vault–dollars, euros, pesos, yuan–then you are a target. And if you don’t get returned right away, there’s not much the authorities can do about it. They are only willing to track you so far. Even now, there are parts of Florida and Texas that are beyond the reach of regular police forces. And from there, who knows? The Caribbean, Mexico, South America? Once you are gone to one of those places, you stay gone.
From the Hardcover edition.