Aiden, age 15, and Meg, age 11, are at a juvenile detention center because they have no where to go after their parents are sentenced to life in prison after being falsely accused in a high-profile terrorist case. Relatives don't want the parentless children. Foster parents don't want them either. In short, the state doesn't know what to do with them and they put them in a detention center. Aiden believes that if he can find the now missing CIA operative his parents were working for then his parents would be exonerated of treason. When Aiden accidentally burns down the detention center, the two have a chance to escape. On the run, they manage to avoid the authorities with the help of a escapee, Miguel, a nasty piece of work accused of manslaughter. Once the fugitives come up with a plan, they discover that Miguel has been wronged like them and they begin to have empathy for the bully. As the three trek across the country to Vermont in search of a clue that will free their parents, they have to avoid capture and trust Miguel.
Gordon Korman is good with developing tension between characters and in dialogue. It is easy to get into his stories and he infuses emotions and details that create a vivid imaginary world. I have more issues with his plot that is not always logical and has convenient coincidences. That said it is still a fun caper. I just had to overlook a few strange premises such as the government putting kids in a juvenile detention center, especially an eleven-year-old, and pulling them from school. It also would have helped if the author had made it look like some foul play had happened to the CIA agent. As written, the facts show that the CIA agent is duplicitous and the kids are foolish to think he'll help them. Perhaps the sequel will add more interesting elements.
The story arc of Miguel was interesting and his rejection by his family made me want to find out what happened to him in book two. Korman is good at bringing some depth and internal conflict to the plight of his characters. The cliff hanger was a "cliff hacker" job that irritated me. Good stories have a strong beginning, middle, and end. The ending of this book doesn't wrap up much of anything. Andrew Clements does this in the "Keeper's of the School" series. While Korman undermines some of the plot's credibility with too much luck on the part of the characters, he has great suspense and strong characters that have made this popular with students.