Monday, September 26, 2011

Book Review: Among the Hidden, by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Simon & Schuster, 2000)

Recommended for ages 9-14

Luke has never had a friend from school come to visit - he has never been to school. He has never had a birthday party. He is a Shadow Child, an illegal third child in a society that allows families to have only two children. If the Population Police discover him, they will arrest his parents and kill him.

When the government seizes part of his father's farmland for a housing development for the wealthy Barons, Luke loses what little freedom he had. Completely relegated to the indoors, Luke is unable to even eat at the same table with his family, for fear of someone seeing him at the table. He spends his days in his hidden attic room, daring to look out the window every now and then, and one day, discovers that he is not the only Shadow Child in the area. Luke befriends Jen, a Shadow Child of a government official, who uses the Web to connect with other Shadow Children; together, they are planning to rally in front of the President's house and demand to be taken out of the shadows. When she invites Luke to come, he finds himself faced with a choice: continue living in the shadows or risk his life to be free?

Among the Hidden is the first in the seven-book Shadow Children series and has one numerous awards, including selection as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, and ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. It is a strong piece of post-apocalyptic fiction that will keep young teens riveted. I was amazed at where Haddix went in places - the people living in this world have a difficult life and she never shies away from it and yet, makes this universe a little too uncomfortably real. She speaks to her readers like they are young adults, never pandering to them and illustrating that life is rife with tough choices.

There is a discussion guide for Among the Hidden featured on the author's website at Visitors to the site can also find out more about the author and her appearances, and for anyone interested in writing a report about her, she offers a "report help" section where she also takes the time to thank her readers for the honor.

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