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Book Review

Torn by Margaret Peterson Haddix has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the fourth book in "The Missing" series.

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 Jonah is one of "the missing." He and several dozen other babies were stolen from their various places in history 13 years earlier. The men who kidnapped them were trying to get rich selling famous historical children. Only now have the kids begun receiving clues about their true identities. Jonah and his 11-year-old adoptive sister, Katherine, have helped other kids travel back to their rightful periods and fix the Damaged Time.

In Torn, Jonah and Katherine must save their time travel coordinator, JB, and three other "missing" kids: Andrea, Brendan and Antonio. JB's former tech guru, who calls himself Second, has trapped JB, Andrea, Brendan and Antonio in the year 1600. JB cryptically reveals they will only survive if Jonah and Katherine repair some unidentified problem that takes place 11 years later.

Jonah and Katherine arrive in 1611 to find themselves on explorer Henry Hudson's ship in the middle of a mutiny. Using a futuristic device called an Elucidator, the kids are able to communicate with JB sporadically. The device also allows Katherine to remain invisible while Jonah dresses and poses as Henry Hudson's son, John. Hudson, some of his crew and the kids are banished into icy waters in a small boat. Later, friendly crew members who have squelched the mutiny pull them back on board. Historically, this isn't supposed to happen.

The kids discover Second is on board the ship and has provided Hudson with a map that will alter the course of history concerning the Northwest Passage. Second is posing as Hudson's adviser, Abacuk Prickett. Second sends the kids back in time to the small boat once more. This time, Hudson and his abandoned men sail to a cabin where they'd previously spent the winter. The kids escape to the year 1605, where they find JB and their friends and save them from a fire. JB tells Jonah that Second has sealed off his own version of time between 1605 and 1611. Despite the way Second has unraveled time, JB is able to return Jonah, Katherine, Andrea, Brendan and Antonio to their 21st-century lives and families. JB says he and his people are suspending time travel for a while after seeing the extent of the damage someone like Second can cause. The kids know that they will be called to travel through time again at some point in the future.

Christian Beliefs

When Jonah calls aloud for JB to help him, Henry Hudson becomes suspicious. One of Hudson's crew members suggests that Jonah was simply praying reverently to JC, or Jesus Christ, for help. When Hudson has Jonah put in the stockades, the same crewman tells the boy God forgives those who truly repent.

Jonah cries out to God for help at one point. While the act is more for show, he says it feels good to do so. A crewman replies with the extra-biblical notion that the Lord helps those who help themselves. When Jonah and Katherine awaken after time traveling, Katherine thinks they've died and asks if they are in heaven.

Other Belief Systems

Some of the sailors on Hudson's ship blame their troubles on witchcraft or bedevilment.

Authority Roles

Henry Hudson is an arrogant man who distrusts his son and many members of his crew. He is determined to make discoveries so his name will be remembered. At one point, he slaps his son across the face. JB looks out for the "missing" kids' safety and welfare as he helps them travel through time. Second has his own ideas about how history should have transpired, and he changes time to fit his agenda.





Discussion Topics

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

Additional Comments/Notes

The author includes a lengthy endnote about the true historical significance of the story's time, place and characters, such as Henry Hudson and Abacuk Prickett.

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 to 12


Margaret Peterson Haddix






Record Label



Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, a trademark of Simon & Schuster, Inc.


On Video

Year Published





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