Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix

This is a book that I decided to read because I have a copy in my classroom for students to borrow. I had never actually read it myself, but last Friday a student noticed that I had a copy and started geeking out so hard, that I had to promise him I would read it in order to calm him down. I was not disappointed.

At about 150 pages this was definitely one of the fastest reads I’ve had in a long time. It took me hours to finish instead of days or weeks and it felt refreshing to read something so simple and straight forward. Among the Hidden takes place in a world where the population is strictly controlled and couples are only allowed to have two children. The consequences of having more that two kids are sever and, in a best case scenario, involve a heavy fine and the removal of the child. However, more often having more than two children involves the death penalty. Needless to say third children are heavily protected and live a difficult life being hidden from the outside world.

The main character of this book is Luke. Luke is the third child in a poor family of farmers. There was a time when he was often able to go outside, due to the isolated nature of his family’s farm. However, when a large development is constructed next door he is forced to spend his days hidden in his attic bedroom. He is not even allowed to eat at the dinner table for fear that people will notice a fifth shadow in the house.

Haddix is very blunt in her descriptions of Ian’s life and totalitarian government that controls practically everything. Luke’s character is complex and spends a large amount of time examining why he acts the way he does. Luke’s family is also complex as they constantly battle between being grateful of Luke’s existence and feeling resentful at the fact that he costs the family money but can’t actually do any work to help generate income.

I can definitely understand why this book would attract young readers. There are important themes to be discussed, including: family dynamics, right vs. wrong, leadership and the importance of independence. I feel like this first book only scratched the surface of a concept that has vast potential. Luckily Among the Hidden is only the first in a series and I am eager to read more, and see where Luke’s life takes him.

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