35 pages 1 hour read

Margaret Peterson Haddix

Running Out Of Time

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 1995

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Coming of Age in a Modern World

The novel is a bildungsroman or coming-of-age story. Jessie fights to save her community and grows throughout the process. Jessie’s emergence into adulthood is marked by her struggle to understand the adults in Clifton. She wonders if “adults everywhere [have] so many secrets” (6). She is curious and wants to discover what they’re hiding, and acknowledges the privilege that comes with not yet being an adult. For instance, she realizes that “grown women had to worry about clothing more than thirteen-year-old girls” (2). Aware of the gendered expectations of adults, she prefers to remain a carefree child. She doesn’t look forward to marriage and children like her sister Hannah does.

The more she explores the outside world, the more she is forced to confront her own ignorance and childishness; she wishes for a modern adult’s strength and courage. Jessie’s coming of age is replete with the back-and-forth between childhood’s security and adulthood’s mysteries. It represents the way young readers of the novel may feel.

The displacement that comes with growing up is literal, not merely internal. Jessie is out of time, displaced from the 1840s into the 1990s. She has trouble understanding her new environment. After growing up in the small town of Clifton, she struggles to adjust to all the noise and people: “It all made Jessie feel unbelievably small.