I have known Rosemary Hayes – and her novels – for many years. When she published my first novel, she gave up an entire day to edit it with me. That detailed Master Class has stood me in good stead ever since.The cover of Taken, with its butterfly motif and open hand, makes the reader think instantly about freedom – and therefore, its opposite – lack of freedom. And this freedom has as much to do with mental freedom as much as physical.
Kelly’s father disappeared four years ago, when she was ten years old. It was thought that he had committed suicide, although his body was never found. Kelly has found it very difficult to accept his death. She has been very much a prisoner in her mind ever since.Is her father dead? If not, where is he? Did she see him just now in the trees at the park or was it her imagination playing tricks because it’s Autumn again, the time of the year he disappeared?
Kelly confides in her best friend, Lizzie, who is dismayed.
“What if Kelly is losing it again?” she asks herself.As soon as Kelly glimpses (or thinks she glimpses) her father, she loses her freedom again – the freedom to be honest with her mother, brother, Gran and Lizzie. They are desperate to put the past behind them. She has to go it alone, until she confides in her new friend, Jack.
Events in this novel gather pace quickly, as secrets and lies pile up, forcing Kelly to go in search of the truth. But, as so often in real life, the truth hurts.Hayes weaves the ups and downs of teenage life into this mystery story and it is uplifting to see the increasing closeness between Kelly and her family. I found the scenes with brother Nat tender and convincing. Kelly’s Gran is an especially intriguing and well drawn character. Although Kelly calls her “a neurotic temperamental nightmare,” it is Lizzie who leads us to the heart of her character. Cleverly, Kelly’s absent father is constantly present in everybody’s thoughts – especially the reader’s. There is an ever-increasing contrast between the gentle artist father Kelly remembers and the person she doesn’t know at all.
Taken is a well-constructed story told by a very experienced author who knows just when – and how- to increase the tension. The twist at the end is clever and poignant - and offers some hope and stability at last for Kelly. But it does mean that she will have to live with some degree of uncertainty – as will the reader.Hayes says: “Ransom are selling it as YA (12+) which I think is about right. Although it is (I hope) very easy to read, there is some violence towards the end – and some kissing, too.”
This is a timely novel, reminding us of the threat of terrorism that we all face. Kelly’s sacrifice is as great as her father’s and all those who are working to make our world safe. We should not forget that there must be many Kellys in the real world.
Pauline Francis www.paulinefrancis.co.uk
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