Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"


Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting [magazine] (https://store.focusonthefamily.com/singleitem/checkout/donation/item/goaa-thriving "magazine").

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Thirteen-year-old Jessie Keyser lives in the frontier village of Clifton, Indiana, in 1840. Her mother, Ma, is the village midwife, and Jessie often goes with Ma to tend the sick. After several of Clifton’s children, including Jessie’s 6-year-old sister, Katie, get sick from a mysterious illness, Ma reveals a shocking secret to Jessie. They are not living in 1840.

The year is really 1996, and Clifton is a replica of a historic village and tourist attraction with hidden cameras and mirrors that allow visitors to watch the lives of the residents. While the adults know the truth, they are not allowed to tell the children, and no one can leave the village. To preserve Clifton’s authenticity, the owners of the attraction stopped providing medical care and vaccinations. The children have diphtheria and will die if they don’t get treatment.

Ma takes Jessie to a place in the woods with a hidden escape hatch, where the cameras don’t record. Ma saved her clothes from before she lived in Clifton, but she can’t fit into them anymore. She gives Jessie money and instructions on contacting a man, Isaac Neeley, who opposed the concept of Clifton when the attraction opened. She tells Jessie that Mr. Neeley will call the health department and a news conference to expose what is happening in Clifton. Ma warns Jessie that escape will be difficult as the attraction is well guarded.

Jessie escapes into the tourist portion of the attraction and hides in the bathroom for the night. The next day, she blends in with the other visitors and overhears the tour guides telling the tourists that Clifton’s residents get modern medical care and are free to leave when they want. Jessie sees several security cameras around the attraction and decides to sneak into a departing delivery truck so she can leave through the security gates without being seen. After the truck leaves Clifton’s gates, Jessie leaves the truck and attempts to follow her mother’s instructions to find a pay phone and call Mr. Neely. Jessie experiences culture shock and is confused by modern technology.

Jessie’s first attempt to call is unsuccessful. Mr. Neely doesn’t answer the phone. She tries again later and is able to talk to him and tell him her location. He assures her that he will get help for the people in Clifton. Mr. Neely picks Jessie up in his car and takes her to his apartment.

He gives her a glass of water, which is drugged, and insists that she rest. Jessie avoids the water and eavesdrops on Mr. Neely’s conversation. He tells someone that they should close Clifton to tourists immediately. He also tells the person that Jessie knows too much and they may have to kill her. Jessie panics and falls, hitting her head and passing out. When she wakes up, the bedroom door is locked. She escapes through the window.

Jessie is desperate to escape from Mr. Neely’s apartment complex. She has been feeling increasingly sick and wanders as quickly as she can until she gets to a bus stop where an older woman invites her to sit and wait for the bus. Jessie remembers Ma saying the Mr. Neely would call the board of health and a press conference, so she decides to try to do it herself. She gets on the bus and asks the woman where press conferences are held. The woman directs her to the state’s capitol building.

Jessie goes into the building and uses the pay phone to call the health department. She reports the diphtheria outbreak in Clifton, but the person who answers thinks it a prank call and scolds Jessie, threatening to call the police if she calls back. Jessie then uses the directory to find the listings for media outlets and calls, asking them to meet on the steps of the capitol building at 10:30 a.m. to discuss serious problems in Clifton and an evil man planning a murder.

Jessie sits on the steps and sees the reporters arrive for the press conference. They ignore her, looking for the adult in charge to interview. When enough reporters are gathered, Jessie tries to convince them that there is a medical emergency in Clifton and a threat to her life. The reporters don’t believe her, thinking she is a child pulling a prank, but eventually, they ask her to tell the whole story.

When Jessie tells them about Mr. Neely’s betrayal, the reporters tell her the real Mr. Neely died in a car accident several years before. While the reporters are deciding if they believe her, Jessie passes out with a high fever. She contracted diphtheria before she left Clifton.

Jessie wakes up in a hospital. The reporters called the health department and the state police. Clifton was evacuated. The man posing as Mr. Neely, Frank Lyle, is a scientist who planned to use Clifton as an experiment. He and a group of other scientists worked with the owner of the attraction and introduced diphtheria to the population with the hopes that the children with stronger immune systems would survive. The scientists, who were arrested, wanted to produce people with stronger gene pools to resist the disease without the aid of medicine. The tourism aspect of Clifton was just a cover for the experiment.

All the children from Clifton are now at the hospital, including her siblings, but Jessie learns that two children from another family died before the evacuation. Some of Clifton’s residents were working with the scientists and were arrested. Her Ma and Pa have lost custody of their children.

Jessie is desperate to see her parents and talks to a reporter, telling him that Ma and Pa are good parents. Eventually, the children are reunited with their parents, but Clifton is closed, and all the residents must adjust to living in the modern world.

Christian Beliefs

Pa prays before the family eats dinner. Jessie prays to God for guidance when she doesn’t know what to do. The prayer is simple, and she wonders if the reverend in Clifton would approve of her plea. She also wonders if God has any connection to the outside world.

Ma writes Jessie a note, saying she would pray for Jessie while she was away. After the fake Mr. Neely takes Jessie to his apartment, she says a quick bedtime prayer, thanking God for making everything OK. As Jessie climbs out the bedroom window of the apartment building, she prays for God’s help. She thanks God when she lands safely on the ground.

Jesse is angry when she learns that tourists have been watching them, but calms when she remembers that her parents taught her that God is always watching.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Ma is a loving and supportive mother who is desperate to save all the children in Clifton. She puts a lot of trust in Jessie to be able to get medicine. Pa is a loving father, but he refuses to acknowledge the danger his family is in or that they are living in 1996, not 1840. Both parents temporarily lose custody of their children. After Clifton is shut down, Pa must see a psychiatrist. Mr. Smythe, Clifton’s teacher, is unkind and impatient to the children. Frank Lyle pretends to be a friend and an adult whom Jessie could trust, even as he planned to murder her.


To maintain the authenticity of the language of 1840, the village children are punished severely for using words and phrases like “OK” and “shut up” — words that were introduced into their vocabulary by Clifton’s adults. Jessie regards saying these words as worse than taking the Lord’s name in vain.

When Jesse was younger, she noticed a camera in one of the trees and started climbing to investigate. The man who owned the general store, Mr. Seward, stopped her and spanked her. Then her Pa spanked her when she arrived home. Ma also tells Jessie that when she kept asking why “OK” and “shut up” were bad words, Pa was beaten.

As Jessie is walking along the highway, two young men stop their car and try to convince her to get in. When she refuses, one of the boys gets out of the car, grabs her and tries to drag her in. She escapes and runs away. Jessie slips and hits her head at the fake Mr. Neely’s house. She escapes through a window on the second floor by jumping.

When the police arrive in Clifton, Mr. Seward holds the schoolchildren as hostages at gunpoint.


Jessie teases her older sister, Hannah, about being in love with a boy, Chester Seward. Hannah asks Ma if she will be an old maid if she isn’t married by 16, like Chester’s father said. Later, Chester defends Hannah from his father when the man holds them hostage, confirming that Chester likes her, too.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

8 and up


Margaret Peterson Haddix






Record Label



Aladdin, a division of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division


On Video

Year Published



ALA Best Books for Young Adults


We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!