The Taking

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
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Smart sci-fi thriller explores girl's odd 5-year absence.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The Taking is an intelligent thriller that mostly plays fair with its science-fiction premise. (Some readers might wonder how Kyra completely escapes media scrutiny after returning from an unexplained five-year absence.) Tyler urges Kyra to read Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, an excellent recommendation.

Positive Messages

The Taking emphasizes the importance of unconditional acceptance. Having disappeared for five years, Kyra finds that nearly everything in her personal life has changed, but she's reassured when her loved ones accept who she is and believe her story of being taken away.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Kyra, the protagonist of The Taking, is presented as a remarkable teen even before she reappears from a mysterious five-year absence: smart and driven, albeit a bit too hung up on her longtime boyfriend. Once she returns, she has a hard time adjusting to the inexplicable changes in her family. But eventually Kyra's bravery and resourcefulness kick in, and she works actively to protect herself and her new love interest, Tyler.


There's not a lot of violence in The Taking. National Security agents threaten Kyra and Tyler at gunpoint, and Kyra beans one of them with a super-fast baseball pitch. A government agent commits suicide with a handgun, but the action is implied and not shown, 


Kyra spends a lot of time and energy discussing her attraction to her boyfriend Austin and later to his younger brother Tyler. Hardly a scene goes by without some comment about how handsome one or the other boy is. Before she disappeared, Kyra and Austin were in the habit of her sneaking out of her house to spend the night in his bed (the implication being that they were not sexually intimate). Tyler begins flirting with the newly reappeared Kyra almost immediately. They eventually take time to kiss and make out. They share a motel room but only because they're being chased by sinister government agents.


The language in The Taking is a bit rougher than one might expect. "Hell," "pissed," and "damn" are employed too frequently to count. "S--t," "p---y," "f--k," "d--k," and "a--hole" each are used a time or two, usually in scenes of great tension.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Kyra remembers a time when she and her best friend got drunk on tequila shots and suffered a hangover the next day. An older female supporting character chews tobacco, and Kyra recalls the one time she tried it.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Taking is a smart and well-told science-fiction thriller about a high school student who loses five years of her life seemingly overnight. The premise is intriguing and carefully explored, and Kyra and her new boyfriend, Tyler, are depicted with wit and insight. There's more strong language than one might expect -- "hell," "pissed," and "damn" are employed frequently; "s--t," and "f--k" are used a time or two, usually in scenes of great tension. Violence in the book is more often implied that shown (including a suicide), although there is some gunplay. In terms of sexual content, 16-year-old Kyra spends a lot of time fixated on the attractiveness of her boyfriends, especial Tyler. She shares a bed with Tyler, but no sexual intimacy is implied.

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What's the story?

Following an argument with her father, 16-year-old Kyra Agnew wakes up behind the Gas 'n' Sip, unsure how she got there and even more surprised to learn she's been missing for five years. Her parents have split up, her mom has a new husband and toddler son, and Austin, her high school boyfriend, has gone off to college with her best friend. Kyra herself has not aged a bit, and she displays some disturbing new abilities, including rapid healing powers, leading to interest from some sinister government agents. The only person Kyra can trust is Tyler, Austin's younger brother, now 17 years old and still attracted to her. As they retrace her steps and try to figure out the mystery behind her disappearance, Kyra and Tyler grow closer, but they must eventually face the otherworldly power that turned her life upside down.

Is it any good?

THE TAKING is a smart, involving science-fiction thriller with an intriguing premise and a cast of interesting and sympathetic characters. Author Kimberly Derting keeps the suspense cranked high without descending into pointless chase scenes. Rather, she concentrates on Kyra's emotional turmoil as she tries to figure out why and how her entire life has been upended. The sci-fi conspiracy plot begs the question of why there's no media attention focused on a teenager who reappears after a mysterious half-decade's absence, but most readers probably won't be bothered by that plot hole. Also problematic is the way in which Kyra and Tyler constantly remark on how wonderful and special the other is. The romantic subplot is bouncy and usually fun, but the mutual admiration is laid on a little thick.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what parts of daily life might change over the course of five years. How would it feel to lose half a decade of your personal history?

  • Why do so many conspiracy theories -- and science-fiction stories -- often include extraterrestrial visitors to our planet? 

  • What reasons do governments give for hiding facts from their citizens?  

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love science fiction and thrillers

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