Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1998
4 out of 5
“Luke! Inside. Now.” These three words call Luke away from the outside world. As a third child, he is not supposed to exist; in fact, it is illegal for him to exist. The Population Police, a government agency, work to ensure that all families have only two children and the discovery of a third holds severe consequences.
For twelve years Luke’s family was able to protect him on their isolated farm. But the nearby woods, and Luke’s protection, are removed for a housing development. Now Luke is no longer safe in his home. While watching the outside world from his windowless attic bedroom, he catches movement in a neighboring house well after the family of four has gone. For weeks he watches for other signs and becomes convinced that there’s someone else living in that house. Ignoring his fear, Luke does the unthinkable—he pays a visit to the house next door in broad daylight. There he meets another, very well-connected, third child and she shows him a world he never knew existed.
This serves as a good introduction to dystopian fiction for young readers. The isolation and fear that Luke encounters is thoroughly examined and is relatable for the intended audience. When company knocks during dinner, Luke rushes upstairs to hide and “he knew without watching that Mother would take his plate from the table…, would slide his chair back into the corner…In three seconds she would hide all evidence that Luke existed.” Luke is plagued by fear, and sometimes guilt, just for being alive. It also gives a frightening picture of the common childhood wish for life without school, homework, and chores. There is some indirect violence, but this is truly a wonderful, fast-paced beginning to the Shadow Children series.