August 7, 2012

Among the Hidden

AMONG THE HIDDEN by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Simon & Schuster, 2008)
GENRE: Science Fiction - Dystopia

REVIEW: In a society in which the number of children per family is limited to two, Luke Garner is a third child, a shadowchild, a child whose very existence is illegal. When the forest surrounding his parents' farm is felled to make way for a housing development for the society's ruling class, Luke must stay hidden, never leaving the house and, eventually, never leaving his attic room. But Luke does leave, and in the process he meets Jen, another third child, the daughter of a rich and powerful Baron, with justice, equality and revolution on her mind. Over the course of their friendship, Luke begins to understand the limitations of his life and learn the courage to hope for more. Haddix's totalitarian dystopia borrows heavily from China's One Child Act, (according to the author, it helped inspire the concept of the book). Though underdeveloped at times (there are questions about the Government's true reach and the society's Population Police that, if answered, would have heighten tensions), Among the Hidden is a compellingly fast read that inspires questions and thought in the reader.

OPINION: Though not as meaty or deeply conceived as the Panem of Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games trilogy, Among the Hidden has much to offer the fans of dystopic fiction. Often overwhelmed and under-informed, Luke is a sympathetic protagonist, ultimately overcoming the hesitation that twelve-years of hiding has bred in him. His relationships - to his mother, to his own frustration, to his doomed friend, Jen - make his story easy to invest in. Overall, a thought-provoking read that will leave reader's curious enough to continue with the rest of the series.

IDEAS: A great suggestion for readers a little too young for The Hunger Games but interested in stories set in dystopias (the fact that it's part of a series means there's a lot to get hooked on). Also a nice, less expected choice for a science fiction display or science fiction book club. The fact that the protagonist is a boy will also help it appeal to male tweens.

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