A couple of months ago I wrote about my discovery of YA author Margaret Peterson Haddix. But at that time I hadn’t yet discovered her most popular series of books, a series that begins with Among the Hidden and continues through seven volumes. I read six of the books in the series this week, and I don’t see that the sixth book brings the story to a satisfying conclusion. However, Ms. Haddix may intend to leave the ending open, or it may all come together in the seventh book, the one I haven’t managed to find in the library yet.
The seven books in this series are:
Among the Hidden (1998)
Among the Imposters (2001)
Among the Betrayed (2002)
Among the Barons (2003)
Among the Brave (2004)
Among The Enemy (2005)
Among the Free (2006)
They’re really just one continuous story, packaged in books that are a couple of hundred pages long for ease of consumption. In my library, half of the books in the series are shelved in the children’s fiction section and the other half are shelved in the YA section. I’d say that’s an issue for libraries, but not for readers. The books are easy to read for about fourth grade and up, and the subject matter is appropriate for anyone who understands the existence of evil and won’t be traumatized by people, even main characters, dying. There is violence, but it’s not terribly graphic for the most part. The children in the book are in real danger, and that danger is not minimized or called off at the last minute.
The premise of the stories is that these children live in a world in which it is illegal for anyone to have more than two children. There has been a problem with food supply in the past, and the totalitarian government decrees that the solution is for everyone to have only two children, no more. Third children are to be aborted or, if they are found out later, killed. In such a world, all the “thirds” are hidden children. Some live in hidden rooms, and others buy fake identities, but they’re all in danger of being found and exterminated at any time.
The books follow a similar pattern: the child protagonist, a third, is forced to come of age and tap inner resources in order to survive in a hostile world. I like the way the children struggle with their own fears and the handicap of having lived a “shadow” life. I like the way some of the characters, who have a heritage of having been taught to trust in God for strength and guidance, continue to do so in a very natural and non-preachy way. sibling relationships and friendships are featured and described in a realistic way.
These books would be excellent for junior high/high school age young adults and science fiction fans. Adventure, an interesting premise, moral dilemmas, intriguing characters —The Shadow Children series has it all. I enjoyed them, and I’m still looking for the last book in the series.