HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Five Were Missing (also known as Ransom)
Author: Lois Duncan
Publisher: Laurel-Leaf Books, republished in 1990
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Young adult
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Duncan, Lois. Five Were Missing (also known as Ransom; published in 1966 by Doubleday and Company Inc., 277 Park Ave., New York City, NY 10017; republished in 1972 by Signet Books, an imprint of The New American Library Inc., 1301 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY 10019). Glenn Kirtland, his younger brother Bruce, Marianne Paget, Jesse French, and Dexter Barton are five high school students in Albuquerque, NM, who all live in the wealthy Valley Gardens area, even though their families are not necessarily wealthy. Glenn is the president of the student body and captain of the football team, but his Thunderbird is in the garage being repaired and painted following a slight accident. Bruce, whom Glenn calls Brucie, is a freshman with a puppy dog look who absolutely adores his older brother. Marianne, Glenn’s girlfriend, is still trying to get over the breakup of her parents’ marriage, the loss of her beloved father, and her mother’s remarriage to Rod Donovan. Jesse’s father is military, and the family has moved around quite a bit, so Jesse is somewhat of a shy loner. And Dexter, suffering from the effects of childhood polio, lives with his often-absent playboy bachelor uncle following the deaths of his parents and is also pretty much a nerdy loner.
One wintry Thursday, these five get on the afternoon bus with a load of other kids, noticing that their driver is a substitute for the regular Mr. Godfrey and doesn’t seem to know where the right stops are. After all the other students have finally been let off, the five are the only ones still on board when the driver goes past the entrance to Valley Gardens, picks up a friend with a pistol, and kidnaps the kids to hold them in a remote mountain cabin for ransom. What will happen to these five young people? Will they be rescued? Will they be able to escape? They learn that the kidnappers murdered Mr. Godfrey, so are they in danger of being killed? Five Were Missing (also known as Ransom) is a very suspenseful page turner. There are a lot of common euphemisms (gosh, gee, darn, blasted, and heck). The “h” word is used once as an exclamation by one of the bad guys and a couple of other times in different constructions. “Lord” also appears as an exclamation a few times. Some instances of smoking cigarettes, drinking beer, and typical high school boyfriend-girlfriend activities occur.
I basically enjoyed the book. It is fascinating to see how the five kids draw upon reserves of strength which they didn’t know that they have, make changes in their attitudes towards various relationships as a result of their current circumstances, and generally learn to work together to achieve a common goal. There are also a few plot twists which involve skeletons in the closet to be dealt with. The characters are fully developed with their own pasts. They all seem real with the same kinds of emotions and reactions that most people have. It is easy to identify and sympathize with them in their plight. Author Lois Duncan does a fine job of weaving their lives and their families into the plot. There is a great discussion in the book between Jesse and Dex where she explains what really makes a person a “cripple.” Some of the pop-culture references may seem a bit outdated and would probably not be understood by many youths today, but they don’t really take that much away from the enjoyment of the story. Those who like young adult novels filled with suspense and intrigue should find this book a good read.