From the BLURB:
A flash of white light . . . and then . . . nothing.
When sixteen-year-old Kyra Agnew wakes up behind a Dumpster at the Gas ’n’ Sip, she has no memory of how she got there. With a terrible headache and a major case of déjà vu, she heads home only to discover that five years have passed . . . yet she hasn’t aged a day.
Everything else about Kyra’s old life is different. Her parents are divorced, her boyfriend, Austin, is in college and dating her best friend, and her dad has changed from an uptight neat-freak to a drunken conspiracy theorist who blames her five-year disappearance on little green men.
Confused and lost, Kyra isn’t sure how to move forward unless she uncovers the truth. With Austin gone, she turns to Tyler, Austin’s annoying kid brother, who is now seventeen and who she has a sudden undeniable attraction to. As Tyler and Kyra retrace her steps from the fateful night of her disappearance, they discover strange phenomena that no one can explain, and they begin to wonder if Kyra’s father is not as crazy as he seems. There are others like her who have been taken . . . and returned. Kyra races to find an explanation and reclaim the life she once had, but what if the life she wants back is not her own?
Kimberly Derting’s new young adult paranormal series ‘The Taking’ has a pretty cool premise. Sixteen-year-old Kyra Agnew gets into a fight with her father one night after a softball game, gets out of the car in a huff and sees a blinding light before – nothing – she wakes up the next day behind a dumpster and no memory of how she got there.
Except when Kyra makes her way home she’s horrified to see an unfamiliar man in her house, and when she goes to her neighbour boyfriend’s house for help, she’s doubly horrified to find Austin’s12-year-old brother now looks exactly like him; Tyler appears to have aged five yeas overnight. And that’s when the police and Kyra’s parents are called – because she hasn’t been gone overnight, she’s been missing for five years.
It is a very cool premise, and would be highly original … if it weren’t for the fact that stories of vanished/returned individuals who haven’t aged a day since they were last seen are kind of a dime a dozen at the moment. And, by comparison, Derting’s YA take on the RipVan Winkle story doesn’t hold up against TV and adult counterparts.
I don’t know if it’s news stories like that of the three women found alive in a Cleveland house-of-horrors after they were missing for ten years (or Austrian woman Natascha Kampusch who went missing in 1998 and was found in 2006) but there are lots of stories at the moment about people vanishing/dying and then coming back not having aged a day. French TV show ‘The Returned’ (based on 2004 French film ‘They Came Back’) is about a small mountain community whose dead start returning, not having aged a day in all the years they’ve been gone. ‘Resurrection’ is a very similar American TV show that’s based on a 2013 book by Jason Mott that’s also called ‘The Returned’ (but has no affiliation with the French TV or movie), and is about a world-wide conspiracy of missing individuals returning home not having aged a day since their disappearance. HBO show ‘The Leftovers’ is based on Tom Perrotta’s 2011 book about what happens when 2% of the world’s population just vanish into thin air one day. Safe to say: there are plenty of books and TV shows out there right now exploring this “what if?” and the fact is, Derting’s ‘The Taking’ doesn’t hold up against them.
I’m speaking more from having watched the French TV series ‘TheReturned’ which I really got into last year and highly recommend. That shows follows the repercussions of returned dead on a number of individuals in a small mountain community – some of the most interesting stories are about a young man who comes back to find that his girlfriend married someone else after he died, and they raised his. But the most popular story was about twins – one who died as a young girl, and returns to find her twin sister now as a young woman. These were some really intense, deeply fascinating stories about what would happen if those we’d loved and lost came back to us.
He reached out and brushed a piece of hair from my forehead. “Agnew Field. They named it after you.”
I jerked back, away from his touch and away from his words.
Suddenly I knew – knew – it was wrong.
All of it. Me and Tyler. Being here at the school. The fact that they’d named the field I’d once played on after me. In memorium ... like I was dead.
Derting’s ‘The Taking’ is probably mostly lacking because of Kyra. She’s actually quite hard to like – from the moment we meet her she’s being stupidly stubborn about following her boyfriend to college instead of accepting one of the incredible softball scholarships a number of colleges have offered her. When we first meet her she’s jumping out of her dad’s car in a huff and walking into a field in the middle of the night to prove her stubbornness on the matter … not exactly the best first impression to make on readers.
The other reason Kyra and ‘The Taking’ are hard to stomach is the feeling that Derting is writing a very prescribed-YA book. There is a BIG focus on romance in ‘The Taking’ – the “spin” being that Kyra was in love with her across-the-road neighbour, Austin, since they were kids but when she returns she still looks 16 while Austin is now 21 and in college he started dating Kyra’s best friend. Meanwhile Austin’s little brother (12, the last time Kyra saw him) is now 16 and she feels drawn to him, and when Kyra comes back after five years Tyler pursues her in a very serious way. Now, that’s all fine a good – but while Kyra is learning some seriously freaky things about herself (she should be 21, but dentist X-rays indicate she hasn’t aged a day in five years and her father turned into a conspiracy-nut while she was missing) but she seems more preoccupied with Tyler’s courtship of her. Things get more interesting when the Government step in to investigate Kyra’s return, but there’s a lot of lovey-dovey snooze-fest to wade through to get to that high-action.
Derting’s writing isn’t great either, and not exactly suited to this storyline that needs a balance of nuance and action. She has a tendency to write superfluous information and tell, not show;
“Robby!” the woman yelled, and the boy’s head whipped around.
“Gotta go,” he whisper-told me as if we’d developed some sort of bond and I required an explanation.
Her romance writing is also sometimes clunky, like when Kyra muses on Tyler’s bookish ways;
It made me wonder how he’d treat a girl. You know, if he cherished her the way he cherished that book.
It was a real limp to the end for me, reading this book. My interest waned halfway through and it was only because I’d come so far (hoping things would get better) that I pushed myself to the end, even though I probably zoned out for a good portion of the lead-up to the finale. I don’t think I’ll be returning for more in ‘The Taking’ series, unless I read some seriously stellar reviews of the second book.