It’s 1840; or so the children of Clifton village and the book’s readers are lead to believe, till the first plot twist reveals the year is really 1996.
Clifton was meant to be a utopia for it’s residents-a secluded, authentic historic village, a safe place to raise a family, and a “living history museum” for neighboring cities. Two-way mirrors and hidden cameras provide visitors to the preserve a chance to watch 25 families live seemingly normal 19th century lives. All villagers were led to believe they could leave Clifton voluntarily at any point, but when children begin dying from a diptheria epidemic, they find nothing could be further from the truth. They are little more than prisoners, and unknowingly victims of a greedy “mad” scientist’s experiment. The action starts when 13-year-old Jessie learns about the “real world” and escapes to it to get help.
Running out of time may not be a completely original story (ie: Truman show) but the plot twists, action and basic history lessons will keep your kids interested. This was Hadddix’s first novel, and I think her best. It supports more clear morals, and pushes less buttons than her later Shadow children series. The City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau is a similar read. (visit our homeschoolbuzz reviews for this title.)