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Among the HiddenReview - Among the Hidden
Shadow Children sequence, Book I
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Alladin, 2000
Review by Su Terry
Dec 12th 2002 (Volume 6, Issue 50)

Among the Hidden (Shadow Children sequence, Book I) by Margaret Peterson Haddix is a well-written suspense filled tale about a futuristic American society that limits families to only two children. It tells the story of Luke a “third Child” hidden from the outside world in his parents’ attic and his discover that there are other third children like him.

Among the Hidden is set during the future in America. Due to an earlier food shortage scare, the American government has created a “Two Child” law [Pop. Law 3903] and established the Population Police to enforce the population code. Edna and Harlan Garner are farmers. Luke is their twelve-year old third or “shadow child.” Agricultural production laws and the laws against meat consumption have reduced the Garner farm to any almost subsistence level. They are force to sell off part of the acreage and Edna is force to seek employment at a chicken factory. The former Garner fields and forest are turned into a neighborhood of exclusive housing for the “Barons” the rich elites of society. Fearing discovery, Luke is forced to stop working on the farm and remain out of sight in the attic. Peeking through the louvers in his attic window, Luke sees a girl in one of the Barons’ houses where there are already two grown sons. Overtime Luke works up the nerve to break into the house and there he meets Jennifer Rose Talbot, another Shadow child. Jen is a Baron and is not taking her non-existent status quietly. She is fluent in the politics and economics of the “Third Child” conspiracy that favors the Barons and keeps the rest of the population in virtual poverty. She has grown up using black market products, false IDs, and wielding the clout of being a Baron. Behind her parents’ back, she has organized a chatroom for Shadow children and a Shadow child crusade to the White House. Jen and her political tracts are eye-opening for Luke, but unlike the Talbots, the Garners are not Barrons. They do not have the connections, money, or influence that the Talbots have to protect their shadow child and themselves. As the Third Child march draws near, Luke must chose between endangering his family and supporting only friend.

This is a tension filled thought provoking thriller that young readers will enjoy. The book is well written. The tension is taut and builds throughout the book. The characters are easy to identify with and well developed. Jen and Luke are an interesting dichotomy. The usage of computer terminology, especially chatrooms may eventually date this book, but currently should appeal to young people.

The book offers young people a wonderful springboard to additional reading on many interesting topics. The concept of population control, food shortages, and the restructure of a society around haves and have-nots may be a little bit too sophisticated for young readers. For older readers, it will challenge them to explore the overt and covert structure of American society, human rights and the power of governments, as well as contemporary social and environmental issue. For inquisitive readers, additional titles are 1984, Brave New World, and The Diary of Anne Frank.

Margaret Peterson Haddix is an author of children’s and young adult books. She was raised on a farm in Ohio. She graduated college from Miami University (of Ohio).  She was a newspaper reporter in Indianapolis, a community college instructor and freelance writer. Her books numerous novels for young people including, Out of Time (1995); Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphey (1996); Leaving Fishers (1997); Just Ella (1999); Turnabout  (2000); Takeoffs and Landings (2001);  The Girl With 500 Middle Names (2001); Anya's Wig (2002); and  Because of Anya (2002).She has also written two short story collections, including  Fine? (2000) Going Through the Motions (2000) and a book of essays for teachers Dear Teachers (2001). To date, “The Shadow Child sequence” includes Among the Hidden (1998), Among the Impostors (2001), and Among the Betrayed (2002). Ms. Haddix has two children and currently lives in Columbus, Ohio. The fourth book in the Shadow Child sequence entitled, Among the Barons (2003) will be published next year.

  Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix is the First Book in the “Shadow Children sequence”. Currently, there are two additional volumes and another slated to be published. The series is thought provoking and worth reading. I do, however, advise the readers to begin with Book I since it details the political and legal structure of the society and sets the fearful mood of living under the watchful eyes of the Population Police. The book is recommended for ages 9 years through 12 years. A “Young Readers” edition is also available. I highly recommend this book.

 

 

 

© 2002 Su Terry

Su Terry: Education: B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral Counseling from Fairfield University, a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual Direction from Sacred Heart University. She is a Licensed Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in Library Science at Dowling College, Long Island, NY. Interests in Mental Health: She is interested in the interplay between psychology, biology, and mysticism. Her current area of research is in the impact of hormonal fluctuation in female Christian mystics.


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