Haddix, Margaret Peterson. 1998. Among the Hidden. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks. ISBN: 0689817002.
Luke is a third child. In America, this is not a big deal; however, in Luke's country, it is against the law. The Population Police dictate that no family can have more than two children. Therefore, Luke must live hidden in a room in his family's home. He can never go outside or even go to school. He lives his life scared and afraid of getting caught. A typical boy, he eventually gets tired of hiding and meets a friend name Jen, who lives next door and who is also a third child. They dream of a day where they can truly live. As Jen actively works towards that goal, she is killed, and Luke is devastated. Through that tragedy, Luke is given an opportunity to live like Jen wished when her father offers Luke a fake identity and a hope of a better life.
In America, we are used to our freedom. While we have laws, the day-to-day aspects of our lives are up to us. Young Adults do not know any other way of life. This book shows them that other way. Just the topic of the book is so foreign to most American teens that it is a gripping tale of government control and the fight to live freely. The plot focuses on Luke's hiding from the Population Police, it also discusses the government's control of farming, social life, and even when people can eat junk food! This topic raises great questions about the government's role in people's lives. It also is a springboard to discuss our government's increasing role in the average person's life. Where should the line be drawn? How far is too far? Those are great questions students can analyze and discuss after reading this book.
While the book raises good questions, it can be a little far-fetched. The reader has to wonder how all of these third children have lived for over a decade without being discovered. If the government is as intrusive as described, the children would be noticed. Because the book moves quickly and the characters are interesting, readers do not mind these leaps in reality.
Luke is a character with whom the reader can identify. The reader's heart hurts for him as he cannot even go into a room without making sure all the windows are covered. He cannot even eat breakfast with his family but must sit on the stairs and watch them. The reader feels angry for Luke when you realize he has to type Jen's password from watching her do it, not because he knows what F-R-E-E means or spells! The reader cheers when Luke and Jen make plans to rally against the government, hoping they will succeed. Then you mourn with Luke over Jen's death and feel for her father, who cannot even visually show his grief in public.
The end of the book leaves the reader with hope that Luke will have a better life as Lee Grant, but until the government changes, the reader is unsure that will happen. Overall, this book raises great higher-level thinking questions about countries, governments, and the boundaries we must preserve.
Publishers Weekly: This futuristic novel focuses on a totalitarian regime and the Internet. PW noted, "The plot development is sometimes implausible and the characterizations a bit brittle, but the unsettling, thought-provoking premise should suffice to keep readers hooked." Ages 8-12. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
School Library Journal: To what extent is he willing to defy the government in order to have a life worth living? As in Haddix's Running Out of Time (S & S, 1995), the loss of free will is the fundamental theme of an exciting and compelling story of one young person defying authority and the odds to make a difference. Readers will be captivated by Luke's predicament and his reactions to it.Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA
http://www.amazon.com/Among-Hidden-Shadow-Children-1/dp/0689824750/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1226882153&sr=1-1 (Accessed November 16, 2008)