Almost like transformers, there is more to this here book than meets the eye.
While this story is predominantly a mystery, there are very strong elements of science fiction and touches upon surprisingly deep topics like divorce, abusive relationships, grief/guilt, and government corruption.
Three siblings: Chess, Emma and Finn Greystone lead a fairly calm existence with their single mother (their dad died when Chess was 4), until they come home from school to find their mother in shock. Three kids from Arizona have been kidnapped. The twist? All three kidnapped kids share the same names, birthdays and ages as the Greystones. When their mom abruptly needs to leave the next day and subsequently disappears the siblings, along with the help of Natalie Mayhew (the daughter of the woman they are now in the care of), must piece together leftover clues to reunite their family.
At times, the pacing here is slow and quite dense with description, but the clues keep the plot moving along – and really picks up around the 250 page mark where the siblings adventure takes them into the science fiction territory of alternate timelines.
While the characters are well drawn out we did find the chapters with Finn to really lag the story – something about the “constant need to protect Finn from the truth” angle got really overused and frustrating. Further, we got fed up with the siblings’ awful treatment of Natalie – the girl caught up in the mystery trying to help untangle the clues. Natalie is a fantastic character – quick witted, brave, and her very real struggles adjusting to middle school are quite honest.
So while we struggled with some slow pacing (this middle grade does clock in over 400 pages) and a few character irritations, it is a well done mystery with many twists and turns culminating in an exciting, heart racing, cliffhanger ending.