Saturday, October 18, 2008

Book Review: Among the Hidden

Among the Hidden is the first of seven books in Margaret Peterson Haddix’s dystopian Shadow Children series. A totalitarian government has taken power after a famine hits America. The new government’s response to the food shortage was to limit families to no more than two children; this policy is known as the Population Law and enforced by the Population Police. The punishment for having a third child is death. Twelve year old Luke Garner lives with his family in the country on a farm. Luke is a third child and, therefore, must hide. He has never been off his family’s farm. Since the property is shielded by woods, his parents allow him to work and play on the property. Until, the government takes half of the land to build a subdivision for privileged government bureaucrats called barons. Once the trees have been removed he is confined to his house. Having become accustomed to playing outside, he is miserable being restricted to the house.

One day after the subdivision is built he notices, while looking through a vent, a face peering out of a window from a house next door. He knows it is not the face of the owners or their two teenage sons since they have already left for the day. Later he gets the courage to run over to the house where he discovers another third child - a girl named Jen. Unlike him, Jen is able to venture outside of her house as her parents, being privileged government workers, have been able to get her a shopping ID. She also has a computer and is active in an illegal Internet chat room visited by shadow children. She is trying to organize a protest rally at the president’s house. She is a lot more knowledgeable than Luke about the hows and whys of the Population Law. She gives him books to read so he can understand more. Ultimately, he decides he is not brave enough to join Jen at the rally. He regrets that he doesn’t have the courage to stand up for himself and other shadow children.


After a few weeks of hearing nothing due to the government’s total control over all media, he sneaks over to Jen’s house to see if he can find out what happened. He enters the chat room on Jen’s computer to see if anyone has heard from Jen. He sets off the security system and Jen’s father – Mr. Talbot - catches him in the house. He tells Luke that Jen and everyone at the rally were mowed down by the Population Police. The Population Police have been monitoring the chat room since the rally. Mr. Talbot tells Luke that he must assume another identify and leave his parents and brothers. Mr. Talbot has contacts and is able to get him the ID of another 12 year old boy who recently died. He is also able to get him a scholarship to an exclusive boarding school.

Here is Laissez Faire Books review of Among the Hidden.

Addendum: Now that I have read all seven books, I was most likely wrong to state that the location was America. The location can probably best be described as some fictitious small country.

Second addendum: There is a study guide for Among the Hidden.


Anonymous said...

It was very interesting for me to read that article. Thank author for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to this matter. I would like to read a bit more soon.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the best books I've read all year. If you havent read it yet, you should go out to the book store and get it ASAP!