A thriller/adventure series by Gordon Korman, otherwise best known for his comedies, though he's written a lot of adventure stories lately. The series was published from 2005 to 2006.
Aiden and Meg Falconer are fugitives on the run. The reason? Their parents were arrested for a crime they didn't commit: treason. With their parents' arrest being a huge media circus, the two were given new last names and transferred to a program for troubled youth (read: juvenile hall on a farm), but managed to escape. Their goal: to prove their parents' innocence. They soon find that in order to survive, they need to break the law. Stealing clothes to replace their prison outfits is just the start, as the two find themselves breaking into houses to hide, stealing food to keep their energy up, stealing money and even in some cases, cars, to be able to get around. And they need to stay one step ahead of the many people who are on the lookout for the juvenile escapees mentioned in the news.
What follows is a massive chase, with Aiden and Meg having to use their wits and knowledge to survive, and sometimes relying on the help of anyone who might become an ally, which sometimes includes some rather shady people who might turn on them at any time.
To make matters worse, it's not just the police who are after the two. An assassin is also out to get them, and prevent them from discovering the truth.
The major characters are:
- Aiden - Age 15. Protective older brother. A fan of his dad's cheesy "Mac Mulvey" detective stories, which provide the inspiration for many of his crazier ideas that actually work. Sometimes tries to avoid bursting his sister's bubble when she has an idea that he doesn't think is very good, for fear of upsetting her. Hates crime and wants nothing to do with the lifestyle they find themselves forced to live.
- Meg - Age 11. Energetic younger sister. Less likely to declare an idea worthless. Not as savvy as her brother, but does crazy and impulsive things that sometimes work very well. Adapts pretty well to the fact that in order to survive, the two have to break the law. She's also able to lie convincingly, which helps a lot.
- Emmanuel Harris - The FBI agent who was considered a hero after locking up their parents for treason, but now believes he may have been wrong all along. He agonizes over the effects of what he did, and tries to find the kids after they escape juvenile custody.
- Miguel - A teenager from the juvenile center Aiden and Meg are sentenced to. A big bully who really gives Aiden a lot of crap, Miguel ends up helping the kids out later on when the camp burns down. Miguel happens to know a lot of tricks that are useful for evading law enforcement, and helps the two out.
- "Hairless Joe" - An incredibly determined assassin who tracks the kids from state to state, showing up wherever they might have reason to go, or wherever the news media mentions they were last seen, in an attempt to kill them. He pulls every trick he can to go after them, and even tries luring the kids into a trap. He also at times fakes being a police officer, an FBI agent, and so on in order to get information that only they would have access to. Agent Harris is after him at the same time he's after the kids.
- "Frank Lindenauer" - A mysterious man who could very well be the cause of the Falconer parents' arrest, and likely framed them. Aiden and Meg are after him, believing he may be the key to proving their parents' innocence.
The books in the original series are:
- Chasing the Falconers
- The Fugitive Factor
- Now You See Them, Now You Don't
- The Stowaway Solution
- Public Enemies
- Hunting the Hunter
After On the Run, Gordon Korman wrote a sequel series, Kidnapped, which takes place immediately afterwards. Now exonerated, the Falconer family is still hated by many who are unwilling to believe they are innocent.
The story deals with another conspiracy - Meg is kidnapped as part of a much larger cause, and Aiden tries to rescue her, this time with the help of Emmanuel Harris from the original series. Meanwhile, Meg tries many escapes on her own, and also tries to use her wits to send out signals and clues to those who would rescue her - some of which only Aiden understands. Kidnapped is a completely different story. Meg's sarcasm and wit are put more in the background, since she can't exactly banter with her captors the way she could with Aiden in the first series. Instead, the focus switches between Aiden's attempts to rescue Meg, and Meg's attempts to escape.
There's also an additional dynamic: the kidnappers themselves. All three of them have different personalities and different motivations for kidnapping her, and Meg begins to know them quite well, and tries to deal with each kidnapper separately whenever she's left alone with one of them, while trying to take advantage of the one in his twenties, who's the nicest to her.
The major characters in the sequel series are:
- Meg - Having survived the experiences of the first series, she has learned a few new things, including tricks from the cheesy detective novels her dad used to write, some of which help. She tries to size up her captors, determining how each would treat her differently, and use it to her advantage when possible.
- Aiden - Not happy with teaming up with Agent Harris, Aiden splits up from him often to try his own methods to learn Meg's whereabouts. Some of the clues Meg sends out are hints only Aiden would recognize.
- Emmanuel Harris - The FBI agent from the first series is now an ally, and is badass and no-nonsense as ever, while trying to make up for his mistake of having ruined the family's life in the first place.
- Rufus Sehorn, "The Blog Hog" - An uninvited blogger who shows up at the Falconer residence and offers to help them receive help via his blog, and somehow manages to get information for the family through suspicious means. He's working with the kidnappers.
- Richie - A friend of Aiden's, who desperately wants to help out with the rescue.
- "Spidey" - One of the kidnappers. He's loud, threatening, large, and has no qualms about hurting Meg.
- "Tiger" - One of the kidnappers. While her words are semi-reassuring, her icy-cold, all-business demeanor scares Meg far more than "Spidey". She turns out to be the leader.
- "Mickey" - One of the kidnappers. A twenty-something man who often shows regret and even embarrassment as being involved with the kidnapping, and is very friendly to Meg. She takes advantage of his friendliness whenever she can, and tries to invoke Lima Syndrome.
The sequel series has three books:
- The Abduction
- The Search
- The Rescue
The first series (On the Run) contains examples of:
- Adult Fear: Imagine this: you're wrongfully accused of the worst crime anyone could commit besides murder (treason), put in jail, and your kids are put in a juvenile detention center where they're bullied, treated horribly, and living an awful life. Then they break out by setting the place on fire, they're listed all over the news, and not only are the police after them, but the whole country hates your kids. That's what Aiden and Meg's parents go through.
- Air-Vent Passageway: It's portrayed as being very claustrophobic, but it is used.
- Being Watched: Aiden and Meg get good at detecting when someone's following them or recognizes them.
- Bittersweet Ending: Miguel was transferred to a maximum security prison, and his life is still in shambles. Also, the sequel series opens with the family taking crap because the parents are still thought by many to be traitors.
- Brother-Sister Team
- Clear Their Name: What kicks off the story as the two initially escape from juvie, and the driving force for much of the plot.
- Clothesline Stealing: In the first novel, Meg and Aiden use this so they'll have alternative to juvie jumpsuits.
- Corruption of a Minor: In the second On the Run book, they encounter a kid whose dad is forcing her to steal things that he then sells.
- Defensive Failure: Subverted. After he mockingly tells her "You don't have it in you," Meg would have shot the guy, except Aiden stopped her.
- Does Not Like Guns: After getting the gun from the assassin, Aiden wants nothing to do with it and tosses it away into a lake.
- Dressing as the Enemy: Happens more than once, as a way of hiding in plain sight, or sneaking past those searching for the kids.
- Dye or Die: Miguel realizes that Aiden and Meg would have to change their appearance, so he dyes their hair and cuts it.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Mostly mild. No characters curse, and even some expressions are modified. "Apewire" is a stand-in for "apeshit". On the other hand, Miguel — a tough kid from juvie — gets hit by this hard in the first book. If he weren't such a badass, he'd be turned into a Bad Butt as a result of having his (many) insults censored in odd ways.
- Heroic BSoD: Miguel has this after his brother disowns him and won't let Miguel live in his house.
- Hero with Bad Publicity: Poor Aiden and Meg. As the story goes on, more and more people hate them, and they overhear more and more conversations about how terrible they are, how they should be locked up, and so on. Though they do have the occasional ally.
- He's Got a Weapon!: Aiden shouts "knife!" when spotting someone armed with one.
- Hollywood Silencer: In literary form.The pistol fired — a sound closer to a cough than a gunshot.
- I Don't Like You and You Don't Like Me: Emmanuel Harris to the Falconer parents when he tries to get their help in pleading for their kids to turn themselves in.Emmanuel Harris: "You don't like me. I understand that. Frankly, I'd be very surprised if you did like me."
- Improvised Weapon: A fish mounted on a wall is used to knock out an assassin.
- Indy Ploy: Improvised when chases occur.
- Insistent Terminology: The International Collective hates being called a gang, even though that's basically what they are.
- It Never Gets Any Easier: Both played straight and averted. While the characters do feel this way at times, at other times, it's noted that even frequent bouts of fear become routine after a while.
- Jurisdiction Friction: Occurs between Harris and the head of Juvenile Corrections.
- Justified Criminal: Aiden and Meg eventually realize they have to break the law in order to survive. At one point, Aiden writes an apology letter for a vacationing family just before stealing their car.
- Kid Detective: The heroes essentially have to become this to prove their parents' innocence, as they search for clues during their travels.
- Linked List Clue Methodology: How the kids follow the trail of "Frank Lindenauer".
- Little Miss Snarker: Meg.
- Miscarriage of Justice: Aiden and Meg's parents' convictions, considering that they're totally innocent.
- My Greatest Failure: The FBI agent pursuing Aiden and Meg worries that he did a terrible thing by locking up their parents and putting them in juvie for their protection, and even frets that their parents may in fact be innocent. He worries that if that's the case, he ruined two kids' lives - and their parents' - for nothing.
- Parental Abandonment: Unusual variant: instead of being dead, they're in jail.
- The Rain Man: Oznot, who has a severe mental disorder of some sort and is unable to communicate verbally, but draws excellent portraits.
- Scary Black Man: Emmanuel Harris is 6 feet 7 inches tall and intimidating to many people, a fact that is mentioned numerous times and remarked upon by many. He ends up with numerous nicknames, from "the 9-foot tall FBI agent" to "J. Edgar Giraffe".
- Series Goal: Clear their parents' names.
- Stern Chase: The kids just can't stay in one town for too long, as their pursuers soon find them.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: Meg is disguised as a boy at one point to throw off everyone who's searching for a brother and sister.
- Trademark Favorite Food: You don't mess with Emmanuel Harris's coffee. He knows his coffee.
- Walking the Earth: Occurs throughout the first series.
- We Need a Distraction: And Meg and Aiden come up with quite a few.
- We Need to Get Proof: The problem Aiden and Meg face.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: Meg is 11. So should she be in seventh grade, as the book says? Her parents were arrested 14 months ago. It's implied she should have been in seventh grade then, but missed out due to the arrest and upheaval of her and Aiden's lives. What 10-year-old is in seventh grade?
- Skipping grades is not unheard of in the United States; usually it's just one grade, but skipping two grades is a possibility for a particularly smart kid. (Not necessarily a full-fledged Child Prodigy, but definitely exceptional.) However, if Meg was actually intended to be that intelligent, it would probably have been brought up on other occasions.
The sequel series (Kidnapped) contains examples of:
- Anti-Villain: "Mickey". The only reason he helps abduct Meg is so that he can help his younger brother. Anytime he shares a scene with Meg, he displays a mixture of Big Brother Instinct and Lima Syndrome.
- Authentication by Newspaper: The trio of kidnappers do this, but in turn, make Meg cry because the date on the newspaper is her birthday. "Mickey" tries to later remedy this by giving her a cupcake with a match on top (to act as a candle).
- The Baroness: "Tiger", one of the kidnappers.
- Bears Are Bad News: Inverted. The bear is only a cute cub, and actually proves to be useful.
- Big Brother Instinct: Aiden spends the entire trilogy trying to save his little sister.
- Same with "Mickey". He's only a part of the kidnapping scheme to help his kid brother. That's the reason why he doesn't want to hurt Meg.
- Bound and Gagged: Happens to Meg. Most of the time, she's free to walk around and try to orchestrate an escape.
- The Brute: "Spidey", the meanest of the kidnappers.
- Convicted by Public Opinion: Although the Falconer parents have been proven innocent (as should be made clear by the fact that they're now living at home), their house is the victim of vandalism and their kids take a lot of crap at school. What's more, one of the kidnappers hates the Falconer parents.
- Even Evil Has Standards: One of Meg's captors. He won't let "Spidey" physically hurt her, and there are other lines he won't cross.
- Gallows Humor: Meg asks Aiden if he's "hung himself" yet when talking about his macrame project.
- HeelFace Turn: One of the captors, the college-aged one, pulls this.
- I Don't Like You and You Don't Like Me: Harris has more respect for the Falconer family, but they still don't like him, and he gives a similar speech to them when they agree to work together to rescue Meg.
- Instant Sedation: Meg is chloroformed a few times within the series. It takes just seconds after a while.
- Lima Syndrome: Meg attempts to produce this in her captors, or at least the college-aged one.
- Living with the Villain: Rufus Sehorn, the blogger who shacks up with the Falconer family and offers to help, is actually working with the kidnappers.
- Minion with an F in Evil: "Mickey" is the nicest one of the kidnappers. I mean, his mask is Mickey Mouse for crying out loud.
- My Greatest Failure: Still upset over the fact that he's responsible for the upheaval of Aiden and Meg's family, FBI Agent Harris takes it upon himself to get involved with Meg's rescue to try to atone for what he did.
- Oh, Crap!: Aiden realizes the kidnapping is happening in front of him as he watches.
- Series Goal: Rescue Meg (or rescue herself, in Meg's case).
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Aiden doesn't like working with Agent Harris to look for Meg, being that Harris is the one who locked up his parents, after all.
- Unwitting Pawn: For one, the kidnapping plot isn't really about the kidnapping. And most of the kidnappers are unaware that they're just patsies.
- Villainous Rescue: When one of Meg's escape attempts nearly results in her death, the captors rescue her... but don't let her go, obviously.
- Would Hit a Girl: "Spidey" has no compunctions about hurting Meg, and is very rough towards her.