Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Among The Hidden

Among The Hidden

Margaret Peterson Haddix
Fiction  Series
For ages 9 to 12
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1998   ISBN: 978-0689817007

Luke has never left the farm where he was born. He has never been in a car, gone to a shop, used a computer, or met anyone outside of his immediate family. The reason for this is that Luke is a shadow child, a third child born in a society where third children are illegal. If the Population Police should find out about him, he will be taken away and, in all likelihood, executed. And so Luke has to be hidden – all the time.

Luke's life is not that bad until a new housing development is built next to his parent's farm. Now he is not allowed to go outside at all, and he cannot even eat in the kitchen with the rest of the family in case he is seen. His days are long and boring, and Luke cannot help wishing that there was someone around to talk to.

Then one day, as he is looking at one of the houses in the development, Luke sees a child peeping out of one of the windows. Luke knows that there are two boys living in the house, and he also knows that they have already left for the day. The child he saw is a third child, someone like him.

Despite his fear of getting caught, Luke finally gets up the courage to go to the house. Because the door is locked he ends up breaking in, and he discovers that the other third child that he saw is a girl called Jen. Unlike Luke, whose parents are poor and afraid, Jen has left her home in her parent's car on several occasions, and she uses a computer all the time. Jen's parents are barons – members of the elite class – and they are able to do more for Jen than Luke's parents can manage.

Luke learns a great deal from Jen, and he finds out that she is planning a rally. The plan is that Jen and hundreds of other shadow children will protest outside the President's house, demanding that the two child policy is revoked and that all third children are given their rights. Jen wants Luke to join her but Luke, terrified of what might happen, doesn't want to go. Surely the risk is just too great.

In this often chilling story readers will be presented with a futuristic world where the government is totalitarian and repressive. Most people live in fear and in poverty, and the government seems to have control of every aspect of their lives. It is sometimes painful to share Luke's fear and suffering, but at the same time the story shows readers how things can go wrong, and how important it is to defend your basic rights, no matter what. Living with the status quo, just because it is safe, is not necessarily the right way to go.

Powerfully written and beautifully paced, this is a fascinating first book in what promises to be a thrilling series.