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.