Synopsis from back cover: The lives of five captives hang in the balance while their families gather the ransom.
Two brothers, their family frantic to find their sons. A loner whose uncle doesn't even know he’s missing. An army brat whose family will never be able to raise enough money. A cheerleader who can’t count on her stepdad but knows her father will come through.
Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, 1990. Previously published under the title “Five Were Missing”.
How acquired: Bought at a library sale in 2012.
First line: The kidnapping took place on a Thursday.
My thoughts: School lets out one afternoon and kids board the bus. A substitute driver is at the wheel, and he misses the first stop, making the boy who gets off there walk back an extra block. The driver apologizes and tells the kids he was called in at the last minute and didn’t get a copy of the route, so Bruce moves to the front to point out the stops. When they’re approaching the last stop, in one of the better neighborhoods, there are just five kids left. But the bus keeps going, picking up another man with a gun.
It’s a disparate group of kids. Bruce, a freshman, a little awkward, living in his brother’s shadow, who he looks up to and admires. His brother, Glenn, the golden boy, jock and all around high school star. Normally he drives to school, but his car is in the shop. Marianne, popular cheerleader who goes out with Glenn. Her stepfather tried to pick her up from school, but she rejected him, as she always does. She resents his presence in her family and thinks the her father hung the moon. Jesse, a quiet loner. Her family are military, and the only family who rent a house in their upscale neighborhood. Her mother thought living off base would be good for Jesse, that she’d have a better chance at a normal life and would make friends. Dexter, another loner who hides his disease misshapen body under long sleeved shirts. He moved from New York to live with his uncle after his parents died, but his uncle continues to live the single bachelor life as if Dexter weren’t there.
The plot felt realistic and the tension came through from beginning to end. The writing was descriptive, although some of the dialogue felt a little stilted. I enjoyed the story, and the way Marianne and her stepfather bonded and arrive a new place in their relationship. As the kids wait out their captivity in a remote cabin with one of the kidnappers and his wife, they get to know each other, and their strengths come out. Bruce and Glenn have some tense moments alone that open Bruce’s eyes to who his brother really is.
I did have one issue, and I guess this might be considered a spoiler by some so be warned -
The only parent reunited with one of the kids on the page was Marianne's stepfather, and I would have like to witness the reunions between the other kids and their families. The narrative occasionally left the kids to focus briefly on one or more of their families, including a passage about Dexter’s uncle, who was out of town and unaware of the kidnapping. There were hints that the uncle’s conscience over his lifestyle and his non-relationship with Dexter was getting to him, and I thought in the end this experience would draw them closer together, make them start to feel like family. But once the narrative left the uncle, it never went back to him, and I was very disappointed that Dexter and his uncle did not have any resolution to their relationship.