Among the Hidden
Finish up your homework, polish off your library card, and get ready to hunker down for a reading marathon. Among the Hidden is the springboard for Margaret Peterson Haddix's Shadow Children series—and there are seven books in the series, so make sure you have extra batteries for your late-night reading flashlight.
Among the Hidden was published in 1998. It introduces Luke Garner, who's an illegal third child hiding from the Population Police. He meets Jen Talbot, also a third child, who's utterly against their oppressive government and is ready to start a revolution. And first order of business is convincing Luke that the Government is a big, fat, corrupted liar.
If you're reading that paragraph right now, going "baroo?," you've probably figured out that this is not Real Life. Among the Hidden is a sci-fi novel set in an overpopulated future where the Government has decreed that families can only have two children. And they're serious about it. Third children—shadow children—are hunted down and killed by the cheerfully named Population Police.
Haddix racked up a whole bunch of awards with Among the Hidden, including being listed on the American Library Association's 1999 list of best books for young adults. (Also on the list that year? Harry Potter #1. Those ALA guys sure know how to pick 'em.)
After finishing the Shadow Children series, Haddix began a whole new series called The Missing. We won't spoil anything, but The Missing ends up grappling with some of the same questions: what happens to kids who aren't supposed to exist—and who are targeted by some seriously evil adults?
Let's just say you don't want to turn your back on them.
Why Should I Care?
While some authors create fantastically imaginary worlds (we're still waiting for our acceptance letter to Hogwarts), others choose to make up not-so-far-fetched dystopias (pretty sure Big Brother actually is watching). Which one is Haddix's fictional world in which a government dictates how many kids a family can have?
Well, it might not be so far-fetched.
China has as a very well-known (and very controversial) one-child policy. Haddix has said that China's one-child policy wasn't the primary inspiration for Among the Hidden, but she did do a lot of research on China's own population laws. Taking something that exists in the real world (one-child policies, reality TV shows) and kicking it up a notch lets authors ask tough questions—and explore even tougher answers.
They might not have talking lions or sparkling vampires, but books like Among the Hidden aren't just out to entertain us. They force us to examine society and care about what is going on in our real world. Like, is overpopulation a problem? (Possibly.) And if it is, is the best way to solve it by enacting laws? (Unlikely.) And if those laws are enacted, should they be enforced by child-killing squads? (Definitely not.)
We bet you can't read just one.