Bloor returns to his home state of Florida, the
dreamlike setting and inspiration of his YA bestseller, Tangerine, in Taken, a
gritty and suspenseful meditation on the future of the American family.
Taken unfolds in the violent year 2035, when those fortunate enough to have achieved the American dream live video-surveiled lives in mega-mansions within fortified communities with ironic and grandiose names. The novel's thirteen year old heroine and narrator, Charity Meyers, lives with her wealthy divorced step-mother and father in a high-security community called "The Highlands" (Bloor fans will recall that in Tangerine, protagonist Paul Fisher's family lived in the genteel Lake Windsor Downs housing development.) Young residents of The Highlands never leave, not even to attend school or to celebrate holidays. That's because it's messy and dangerous on the outside where poor families live in squalor without health care or economic or educational opportunities. The poor of 2035 fight the Oil Wars, work 365 days a year as maids, cooks and butlers in an ever growing service sector, or prey on the rich by kidnapping their children and exchanging them for huge ransoms.
Charity thinks she knows what to do and what to expect when she realizes she's been abducted. She stifles her panic and claustrophobia by forcing herself to remember recent events at school and in her home. It is through these flashbacks that we learn about her mother's death from melanoma, her dermatologist father's remarriage to a television personality and their divorce, her one good friend at school; her teacher; and Victoria, her beloved maid. While her father plays golf, drinks or attends football games, it is Victoria who comforts Charity when she suffers night terrors.
Like the teenaged protagonists Bloor writes about so lovingly, knowingly and respectfully in his earlier books, Charity's tough mindedness and dignity make us like her and care about her right away. She seems real and alive on the page when she worries that her father will be too drunk to follow the kidnapper's instructions, when she is embarrassed to use the bedpan her kidnappers provide, or when she repeats jokes only a thirteen year old would think are funny.
As the kidnappers' Plan A goes down in flames, and they pursue a desperate Plan B to secure the ransom, Charity realizes that her life is truly in danger. In an interesting inversion of Stockholm Syndrome, Charity wins over one of her captors, a bitter teenager whose father was murdered and whose mother died because she could not pay for treatment. As the minutes tick by, the two young people engage in powerful and affecting arguments about what is true, safe, valuable and just.
Bloor is a serious and ambitious writer, always willing to experiment. His satirical ghost story Storytime, skewers ineffectual parenting, magnet schools and the push for ever higher test scores. In London Calling, an old radio transports the depressed and bullied son of an alcoholic to blitz-ravaged London so he can save the soul of a hopeless man. Taken's vision of families where hired help do the parenting, and of a world where racial and economic injustice imprison both rich and poor is made vivid by the anger and brilliance that inform Bloor's most successful, moving and darkest novelsTangerine and Crusader. Bloor truly cares about teenagers and wants adults to cherish them, to listen to them and to reflect on the often cruel world they have built for them.
This review was originally published in January 2008, and has been updated for the December 2009 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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