The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix
The Greystone kids thought they knew. Chess has always been the protector over his younger siblings, Emma loves math, and Finn does what Finn does best—acting silly and being adored. They’ve been a happy family, just the three of them and their mom.
But everything changes when reports of three kidnapped children—who share the same first and middle names, ages, and exact birth dates as the Greystone kids—reach the Greystone family. This bizarre coincidence makes them wonder: Who exactly are these strangers? Before Chess, Emma, and Finn can question their mom about it, she takes off on a mysterious work trip. But puzzling clues left behind lead to complex codes, hidden rooms, and a dangerous secret that will turn their world upside down.
I don’t know that I enjoyed this book at all, and I’m not really even sure why? It’s a really difficult book to talk about or explain, so sorry if this review is vague.
This book seems to occupy the room between Middle Grade and Young Adult, much like the Heroes of Olympus series. It’s quite long and the pacing is rather slow for middle grade, but the characters are kids, and its readable on a MG level. Ideal, perhaps, for advanced elementary readers who are ready to be challenged but aren’t ready for the mature theme/content of YA books yet.
The closest comp/vibe I can give this book is to A Series of Unfortunate Events, because it has a similar sibling dynamic and family-adventure feel. But it’s more similar to the later books in that series, and has none of the whimsy or playful writing of the first three books.
When it comes down to it, my lack of enjoyment for this book probably comes down to the fact that 100 pages in I couldn’t tell my students what it was about. It’s a long book, but nothing ever seems to happen until right at the very end. It’s very much written as a puzzle for the reader to solve, and might remind adults of Blake Crouch, but I just … wasn’t interested in the puzzle maybe?
I don’t know, this was a well-written book, and Haddix is a master at MG thriller/adventures, so I’m sure plenty of readers will enjoy it. I just didn’t connect with it, for some reason. Recommended for fans of Haddix’s The Missing series or A Series of Unfortunate Events. Not recommended for struggling readers.