Sunday, April 6, 2014

Among The Hidden

Among The Hidden 

By Margaret Peterson Haddix 
Published:  1998
An ALA Best Book for Young Adults 

The world has gone through famine and the Population Police are out in search of anyone who disobeys the law of only having two children.  That is what the world that is painted for you in Haddix's series of books that start with Among The Hidden. 

In this story we meet Luke, a third shadow child.  He is illegal and his parents took a gamble having him thinking the new law would be overturned soon.  But it didn't and now Luke is hiding in their house.  He used to play in their backyard at their farm but the government has made his father sell land and they have started to build many fancy houses for the Barons to live.  This means Luke can not even go out around in his own house and is forced to stay in the attic and eat on the steps.  In the attic he can look out of the vents and he studies the people moving into the "mansions."  He watches everyday and sees the same thing two adults and two children leaving from each house.

He went on living his life in the attic and started to get "too upset to read, too restless to do anything else."  He watched the quiet neighborhood "nothing moved, not even the flag on the Gold Family's flagpole"...

and then....

"Out of the corner of his eye, Luke caught a glimpse of something behind one window at the Sports Family's house. A face.  A Child's face.  In a house where two boys already lived."  "Luke was so surprised, he lost his balance and almost fell backwards off the trunk." I too was surprised.  

Haddix creates suspense and we feel hopeful for Luke in this moment and I immediately had many questions.  Are there other third children?  Could there be one right across the street from him?  How will he find out?  Will he meet them?  This propelled me into reading the rest of the book and drew me into the world that Haddix created.  Luke and and the readers had something new to look forward to.

Luke also had questions and he began to watch the house more carefully.  One day "a panel of one of the blinds on an upstairs window flipped quickly up and down."  "The seventh day the blinds in a downstairs window were left up in the morning.  Luke saw a light go on and off at 9:07, two full hours after the last of the Sports Family had left."  On "the thirteenth day,"  "the wind blew the blinds back a couple times" and "Luke saw lights on in some of the rooms some of the time, in other rooms as the day wore on."  "Once he even thought he saw a glow of a TV screen."

Luke as well as I "had no doubts anymore."  He was not the only third child and he had to plan a way to see who it was at the Sport's Family's House in the middle of the day.  The careful way Haddix writes about the house across from Luke creates intrigue and a story that is believable.  Of course Luke is not the only third child he is not alone.  It also creates a story that we want to know the ending too.  Does Luke get out of hiding and how would he?  Will this person turn him in or help him?  So many questions as I read through this story.

Luke creates his plan to sneak across and see who it is.  "He began waking up every morning in a cold sweat, thinking, Maybe today.  Do I dare?  Luke's family, especially his father has made him so cautious of the government that he is terrified and to be honest I was scared for him.  He counts three times to make sure everyone leaves the houses across from him 28 people in all, he even makes scratches on the walls to see if check his counting.  "He could hear the blood pounding in his ears.  He could hear the blood pounding in his ears.  He moved in a daze.  Off his perch.  Down the stairs.  Into the kitchen.  And then---out the back door."  By telling us every step Luke makes we can picture him and really see him going through the steps to get to the other Shadow Child."

Once in the house he meets Jen and she is a spunky girl that is also a "third child."  Her life is very different from Luke's She can go about her house, she uses the internet, the tv, she even goes out shopping with her mom with a fake shopping pass and a hollowed out back seat.  Luke is intrigued and so are the readers.  Jen tells him all kinds of things about the Population Police that her step dad works for the Government and that she is planning a rally with other Shadow Children she talks to in a secret page online.  She gives Luke books to read about the Population Law and why it was passed.  This information that Luke reads really helps to cement the believability of the world Haddix has created in the book.  We can see with this information how this could happen in the future and how and why the government would create such a thing.  

They make plans to signal each other and meet up again.  Luke cannot stop thinking about Jen and the things she showed him, including junk food, which was against the rules.  Jen breaks all the rules.  She thinks she can change the world and the population law.  By creating a contrast to shy timid Luke we get conflict in the book.  On one hand we have a safe boy that listens but on the other we have a girl that breaks all the rules and doesn't have any need for authority, including her parents.  She reminds me a lot of Alaska in Looking for Alaska.  We are drawn to her and so is Luke.  Luke gets braver as the story goes on and goes to her house several times.

The book takes a turn when it is time for the Rally.  Jen and the other Shadow children are going to march up to the President's house with signs.  Luke has a choice to make.  Will he go with her even though he does not believe it will help or will he stay in his safe house.  He still has some doubt that the population law was a bad thing because he thinks his family would have more food if they did not have him but he also hates living his life the way he does.  This is a huge conflict in the story and he can not change Jen's mind so she leaves and Luke does not hear from her again.

He listens to the radio for days and watches for any signs of Jen or mourning from her family, but nothing.  Luke finally goes back over to the house and in doing so trips their alarm but gets on Jen's computer and in her chat room and asks where Jen is?  Jen's step-dad comes home and explains to Luke that Jen and all the other shadow children that went with her were shot and killed but the government hid it and told them they could not act any differently.  "All forty kids at the rally, gunned down right in front of the president's house.  The blood flowed in to his rose-bushes.  But they had the sidewalks scrubbed before the tourists came, so nobody would know."  I was shocked when he said they were all killed, they were just children.  I thought that was harsh but it also helped to show that this law was real and that it was a bad offense for someone to break it and the government was not going to tolerate people creating a disturbance.

This also helped to show Luke that his family was right to be scared of the Population Police and that they really just loved him so much and didn't want to see him hurt.  He got to talk to her step dad a little bit and he realized from that talking that The Barons get more privileges, food, and get to break some rules like the junk food one.  He also started to realized that if things were more equal then the population law would not have been needed.  This whole time he thought his being alive was taking food from others and putting a burden on his family but really it was just the government treated people differently. He also learns that the population police are going to be watching carefully and that he can have Luke a fake I.D. of a to go and live a life and keep his family safe if he wants it.  

Luke finds out he works for the Population Police and at first doesn't trust him but after seeing how sad he is starts to right before the other Police come to search the house because they have been monitoring her chat room to catch other Shadow children.  George, Jen's step-dad convinces them that no one is there and then bribes them while Luke hides in a closet and when he comes out he tells George he wants the I.D.

"Lee Grant turned around to see what lay ahead."  Lee is now Luke's name and he is on his way to a boarding school with his new fake I.D, leaving his family safely behind him.  This leads us to wanting more we want to see what happens to Luke in the future and how he goes from hiding only talking to his family, Jen, and George to a new life as a Baron.

This is a series of books and I have to say is done in a way that I would want to read more and see what happens to Luke.  I think children would want to as well.  I think what makes this book so intriguing is that it draws you in and you know that what is happening to Luke is wrong but you also don't want anything to happen to him.  I found myself getting excited for him, with him, and scared as well.  I think it is a great series for someone that has a hard time buying into fantasy.   This one is very closely related to our real world or at least a future world that I could see developing out of what we already have.  It has a great story line and keeps you on your toes.    

1 comment:

  1. I remember this book coming out and all of the hype surrounding it! I'm glad you enjoyed it even though you're not super into fantasy. I would love to get into this series eventually. Thanks for the post! :)