Saturday, March 30, 2019

Oldie But Goodie: RUNNING OUT OF TIME by Margaret Peterson Haddix

To recognize literary blasts from the past, I started an "Oldie But Goodie" series to recognize memorable books I read that were published back in the day.


I'm not quite sure how I ended up being somebody who wrote more of the page-turner style books. I think it's because every time that I've started writing a book, I feel an urgency and I think that is conveyed to the reader as well, the urgency of wanting to get through the story and wanting to tell that story. So I think that is what probably drives the 'thriller' nature of the books that I've written.” 
-Margaret Peterson Haddix

RUNNING OUT OF TIME (Simon & Schuster), by Margaret Peterson Haddix, is a middle grade novel (that could also pass for young adult) that was published in 1995. This story centers on 13-year-old Jessie, who believes she is growing up in a rural Indiana village in 1840. In the beginning of the story, it is revealed that a number of children in her village have caught diphtheria, a disease that can be deadly. Jessie’s mother tells Jessie that she must escape from the village to help the sick children get access to medicine. Ma also reveals that the village they live in- the only world that Jessie has known- is actually a historical preserve that has gone haywire, and the villagers living here- grown-ups and children- are being held captive here. Outside, in the real world, it is 1996 and the overseers of this “historical preserve” have been withholding medicine from the villagers.

Without giving away major spoilers, I believe the author might have written this story to hint at a personal conviction. If my assumption is correct, she successfully conveyed her message without talking down to or overwhelming me, the reader, with it. I’m generally unenthusiastic about stories that are unable to grab me, and at the same time, are blatantly pushing a message or idea, even if it is one that I personally agree with.

RUNNING OUT OF TIME, on the other hand, hooked me with an element of intrigue right from the first chapter with Jessie’s observations of the mysterious village and the secret Ma was ready to share. The message of the story (or at least the one I picked up on) was artfully woven in- it was a visible thread rather than a distracting pattern that repeatedly called attention to itself. 

As a reader and writer, what story elements do you think should be included in a first chapter? What fictional stories with "messages" have you liked and/or not liked?

6 comments:

Donna K. Weaver said...

This book reminds me of the M. Night Shyamalan movie The Village.

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

I've never read this, but I am fascinated with insular worlds where people live in with no knowledge that there is a bigger and much different world beyond them. Even made a stab at writing one myself.

Empty Nest Insider said...

What a wonderful book review! Running Out of Time sounds like a fascinating story as seen through the eyes of a 13-year-old girl.

Julie

Mark Koopmans said...

Oh, I don't know about messages per se, but I absolutely love it when the character(s) are talking about X and then Y subtly (or not) drops in the unexpected hook that you know just *has* to be followed. So much fun!

Liz A. said...

That sounds like the movie... The Village? I think that's the title.

Sherry Ellis said...

The premise sounds intriguing!

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