Go to Homepage   Nancy Kress: Yanked
(Book One of David Brin's Out of Time Series)

 

Avon Books (Paperback), ISBN: 0380799685
In the year 2339, humankind is well on its way to creating a utopia. A mysterious alien civilization, the Gift Givers, bequeathed humanity the key to a perfect lifestyle. Unfortunately, the key came in the form of a nine-step puzzle, and the solution to the third step was left on a planet called Jump, at the edge of the universe.  

Six years ago, a group of space settlers attempted to colonize Jump, but the adults all died on the trip through the t-port. Too late they learned that only humans under the age of 16 can survive t-port space travel. The settlers' failure stranded a group of youngsters on Jump, along with the solution to the third step.  

To make matters worse, the Panurish (an unfriendly species also seeking the solution to the third step) already occupy Jump. Somehow, a team of teenagers must travel to Jump, retrieve the third key and the youngsters, and get home again without being vaporized by the Panurish. 

If all this sounds complicated, don't worry. Author Nancy Kress makes it easy for her characters -- and readers -- to understand. Her effortless explanations become all the more remarkable when you consider that most of her main characters don't come from the year 2339 but were "yanked" from earlier times and recruited for this mission. 

Jason, a high-school basketball star and natural-born leader who lacks a commitment to anything but having fun, comes from 1999. So does quiet, shy Sharon, who feels responsible for everyone else in her dysfunctional family. Robbie, a street thief from 1810 London displays remarkable survival instincts but little trust. In contrast, Jofrid's openness and intelligence earned her nothing but scorn in the Iceland of 987. Along with Sor, a boy from the book's present, this unlikely team of teenagers must attempt the challenge of their lifetimes. 

Perhaps the best thing about Yanked is the way each character uses his or her own skills and culture to aid in the mission. Although faced with mortal danger, the yanked teens never resort to violence to solve their dilemma. Instead, their combined life experiences and good-old ingenuity save the day over and over. Readers can't help thinking, "Hey, I could do that!" At the same time, the story reassures us that basic human talents will suffice for survival no matter how scary and uncertain the future may become. 

My co-reader, a 14-year-old named Jack, rated the book better than most science fiction stories. His only criticism was that he found the first part of the book (where the back-story shifts between Jason and Sharon every few pages) hard to follow. He also admitted that a good understanding of world history -- a feel for what life was like in nineteenth-century England and ancient Iceland -- would've made the book even more enjoyable.  

Perhaps that's why I enjoyed the book so much. Although targeted to young adults, any reader who enjoys history will relish the contrast between the characters and find Yanked a hard book to put down. 

Lauren Rabb, with help from Jack Byrne, age 14

Lauren Rabb is the author of Walking Through Time.

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