The Marvelous Margaret Peterson Haddix
April 29, 2013
For fans of well-written science fiction, like me, finding an author that can creatively weave together both a great story and great characters can be difficult. A lot of the time the science fiction element can overshadow character development, especially in tech oriented science fiction. However, this doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem with the sci-fi tales that are being created for young adults and juveniles. And, today, one of the best writers for that age group is Margaret Peterson Haddix.
Haddix is probably best known for her Shadow Children series. This fantastic sequence of novels takes place in a future where people are only allowed to have two kids. However, some families break this law, and the series follows the struggles of those forbidden third children, who are forced to hide their existence or risk execution. These illegal kids, who live secretly in the shadows, must try to find a way out of hidden attics and basements to take their rightful place in a world that considers their every breath a crime. Each book details their efforts to change the very society around them in order to gain the right to live.
Her most recent series, The Missing, combines both science fiction and history. It tells the story of famous children who were abducted from their own time periods and brought into the twenty-first century by smugglers. The efforts of Jonah and his sister Katherine to return these children to their rightful place in history and stop those from the future messing around in time is a wonderful adventure. It is also a great history lesson, traveling between time periods as varied as 15th century England and 17th century America, and introducing historical figures like Henry Hudson and Albert Einstein.
Another interesting foray into the past is done in quite a different way in Haddix’s Running Out of Time. In this story, Jessie is a thirteen year old girl from 1840 who makes a startling discovery after a devastating illness threatens her village. It is not, in fact, 1840. She has been living in a tourist attraction set up to show how people really lived in the mid-nineteenth century. The problem is that there are those that do not wish to disrupt the fantasy and leave the artificial world they have created, not even to save the dying. Jessie must break out of the only home she has ever known to confront a future she could never have imagined in order save the lives of those she loves.
And in her latest novel, Game Changer, Margaret Peterson Haddix probes the idea of alternate realities and our culture’s obsession with sports. KT, a star softball player and the apple of her parent’s eye, wakes up in a world that has been completely turned upside down. All of a sudden, sports are meaningless and everyone attends academic meets where people she considers nerds, like her brother Max, are the stars. She is now the one on the outside. Her journey to discover how she got to this strange reality leads her to examine her own world, as well as her place in it. Also, It is a great look at the priorities that our society places on both academics and athletics.
Writers like Haddix, who can create unique worlds as well as unique characters, are sometimes hard to find. And the range of stories that she tells, from time travel to cloning, seems inexhaustible. So whether you are young or old, if you enjoy a good science fiction tale that will also leave you thinking, give Margaret Peterson Haddix a try. She may be writing primarily for kids and teens, but her stories appeal to everyone.