Thursday, February 18, 2010

Book Reviews: Among the Hidden & Among the Imposters by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Because Luke is a forbidden 3rd child in a society that only allows 2 children per family, he must hide or be terminated by the population police. Even at 12 years old, he has never seen or spoken to anyone outside his immediate family. Until the day he meets a neighbor, Jen, who is also a 3rd child and his life changes forever.

This 7 book series, known as The Shadow Children Sequence, is intended for a middle grade audience and while some content may be slightly unsettling for under 12s (there is death involved), there’s not really enough meat here to truly satisfy an older teen or adult reader. I read the first two, and probably won’t bother with the rest unless they happen to fall in my lap.

Book 1, AMONG THE HIDDEN, sets up the dystopian society nicely. Because of food shortages, parents are only allowed to have 2 children. Naturally some people break the rules, like Luke’s parents, who damn him to a life in shadows, indoors, and largely left to himself. At some point, he suspects another 3rd child lives in his neighborhood and he risks everything to meet her. This is Jen, and she wants Luke to join her in her quest to give 3rd children a voice. Jen plays the mentor role for Luke, awakening him for the first time to the possibility of living a real life, out of the shadows. She also illustrates the class struggle within this police state. Her family belongs to the Baron class, a privileged group of people who work for the government and thus can afford more freedoms (though having a 3rd child is not one of them). There are a lot of interesting ideas brought up, especially concerning government tactics to remain in control, but they are only superficially explored.

Still, I think AMONG THE HIDDEN is a good starting point for readers interested in trying out the dystopian genre thus my rating – 3 Zombie Chickens: Well Worth Reading (especially for younger teens and those new to the genre)
If you haven't read this series yet, you might want to stop reading here, since my review of the second book contains spoilers for the first (and don't look at the book covers for the rest of the series unless you want to know where the series ends up - the book titles make it pretty obvious!)

Book 2, AMONG THE IMPOSTERS, finds Luke taking over the identity of a recently deceased Baron boy his age and attending a very strange, yet ultimately very special boarding school. He’s picked on by his classmates relentlessly as he tries to blend in. Will he be exposed as an imposter?

The plot here was more of the action variety, though it takes a bit for the pace to pick up. At first, Luke can't find his way around the school at all, and he spends days just trying to find the privacy to read a scrap of paper given to him by the man who set him up with his false identity. It is satisfying to see how much Luke grows over the course of the book, and I thought the idea behind the school was really clever, but it ultimately just didn’t engage me as much as I hoped.

My rating – 2 Zombie Chickens: Enjoyable but not essential.

Find out more about the series, including the 5 follow-up books, at the author’s website.



See index of all dystopian reviews on Presenting Lenore

21 comments:

bermudaonion said...

Among the Hidden sounds good, but I'll probably skip Among the Imposters.

Lenore said...

I should mention, too, that they are short, and thus not a very big commitment!

~The Book Pixie said...

I read this whole series back in middle school and really liked it. I hope to eventually get all the books so I can read them again.

~Briana :D

Lenore said...

I think I would've really liked them if I read them when I was in middle school. I hope you enjoy your rereads!

Staci said...

Being a middle school librarian I have to say that I can't keep these books on the shelves!! I really enjoyed the series and love it when the kids get excited about reading!

Marie said...

These sound like fun books :-) I had fun just reading your review!

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

Sounds like a great premise. I was hooked on the description until I heard that there was no real weight there. But maybe in the next year or two for my cousin.

Jeanne said...

I read these with my kids when they were in late elementary/middle school, and we all zipped through them and enjoyed them. They are very quick reads. We thought they were well written.

Cleverly Inked said...

Thanks for the review, I had never even heard of these

Krista/Tower of Books said...

I read Among the Hidden in middle school and have a copy of it somewhere. I never read the rest of the series though. :/

Kristi said...

I feel the same as you about these books - I think a lot of it is just that they're aimed younger than I usually read. Some nice action and adventure, but there's not a lot of heft to them. Still, they are extremely popular at my library!

Rebecca Herman said...

I know I read at least part of this series when I was in middle school/early high school, but I can't remember if I ever finished the series...

Dazzling Mage said...

I remember reading Among The Hidden in my high school days, and it was an alright read. Didn't pique my interest to read the other books though. Good review though.

Becky said...

I love the sound of this! The premise really hooked me.

KHCPL Teen Scene said...

I booktalk these to the middle school crowd and I never seem to have enough copies. It really appeals to that age group, and gets them ready for the older stuff later on.

Misty said...

These are possibly the only books my little sister ever went crazy for. I normally try to push books on her, and being 10 years older, I have a wealth of them. She just rolls her eyes. But one day she came home asking me if I'd read these and insisted that I do. I think when you read them as an adult, you have to keep in mind the age they're aimed for, and I have to say, they are very effective for that age group. She still loves these, and she's going on 16 now. I bought her the full set for Christmas.

April (BooksandWine) said...

I read this back in Middle School as well, for class and a lot of us really enjoyed it. I think this is one of the books which lead to a love of dystopia for me. It's definitely a great gateway book for younger readers :-)

Michelle said...

I read the first in this series and enjoyed it. I really should go back to the series eventually.

Creative A said...

Wow, Shadow Children series used to be my favorite. They really opened up the world of speculative YA for me.

On another note, I gave you a blog award today. It's halfway down the first post :)

http://headdeskforwriters.blogspot.com/2010/02/events-of-february.html


-Mandy

Beth F said...

Thanks for honest review -- I have so many I want to get to, I'll leave this middle reader series for later.

Zibilee said...

This sounds a bit sad, but also interesting. I am going to point my daughter towards this review and see if she's interested in the book. Thanks for your honesty in this review.