Among the Hidden
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Jen Talbot is Luke's new (and only) BFF. He discovers her hiding out in her parents' fancy house not long after they move in and is stoked to meet another shadow child. Once they meet, though, he realizes that birth order is about the only thing they have in common.
Driving Cadillacs in Our Dreams
Difference #1: Luke hides out in an attic. Jen hides out with an Internet connection and a bag of potato chips. That's just what life is like when you're a Baron, one of this world's superrich. Jen gets to indulge in a bunch of stuff that Luke never even dreamt of, like riding in a car and eating now-illegal junk food. Shocking? Yes. But Jen, with stunning logic, says "yeah, well, we're illegal, too, so why shouldn't we enjoy ourselves?" (17.37).
But what really blows Luke's mind is how adept she is at using the Internet to talk with other shadow children. Jen is outgoing and passionate, so she doesn't have to be asked twice to assume the position as leader of the shadow children rebellion. But we don't really see the same passion in everyone else which leads us (and Luke) to wonder if everybody in the protest party is on the same page. Personally, we think Jen is in a completely different library. In a moment of frustration, even Jen exclaims, "Am I the only one who feels this way?" (20.26).
Here's the thing: yeah, maybe she is. It's a lot easier to get worked up about injustice when you're not in fear of your life. If survival is a daily struggle, you don't have much energy left over for railing against the Government.
On the other hand, if all of the other shadow children are using computer, then they're likely from privileged families, too. Maybe there is something fundamentally different about Jen that she's willing to risk her life to be heard—just as Luke is willing to risk his life to be seen.
Jen Talbot vs. The Government
Jen ain't gonna take it. No more Miss Nice Girl. She's going to fight for her right. Etc, etc, you get the point: Jen Talbot is on a mission, and her mission is to free all shadow children everywhere to be recognized as legal citizens.
And boy, does she have some choice words for the Government that's keeping them down.
In Jen's opinion, the Government doesn't just spread lies with their propaganda, but they're also "incompetent and stupid" (17.57). But her passion—and her privileged lifestyle—doesn't let her see the true scope of the Government's power. In the end, she learns the hard way that the Government has no problem getting rid of anyone who defies them.
Then again, maybe she knew exactly what she was walking into. When talking with Mr. Talbot, Luke suggests that Jen had an inkling the rally may not go exactly as planned but she went through with it anyway. Obviously Jen won't be making any trips back from the grave to confirm or deny this claim but if Luke is on the right track, then Jen's crusade might not have been carried out in completely naivety. And that earns her a few brownie points as a martyr for a larger movement, one that Luke vows to carry on in Jen's honor.
Foil, Foil, Toil and Trouble
Okay, so Luke and Jen don't have much—or anything—in common. That's great for us, because their differences help us see the strengths and weaknesses in each character. Let's take a look:
- Jen is an outgoing, gregarious, commander-in-chief of the online shadow children community.
- Luke has basically never been around anyone but his mom, dad, and two brothers.
- Jen gets carried away with excitement. She's described as being "as bubbly as the shaken soda" (17.75) when initially telling Luke about the rally.
- On the other end of the spectrum, "Jen's rally sounded like [Luke's] worst nightmare" (18.8).
- Luke is a Class A, NASA certified, kid-tested, mother-approved careful kid. Determined to not consider himself a scaredy-cat when sneaking into the kitchen or out of his house, Luke thinks to himself, "I'm cautious. I'm making a plan" (8.4).
- Jen, on the other hand, "[takes] a lot of risks" (17.2) and—according to Luke—is "absolutely crazy" (17.74).
With a Bang or a Whimper
We get the feeling that you could take any of the Big Five personality traits and Jen and Luke would fall on opposite ends. In some ways, Jen isn't a fully developed character. Since we only spend a little time with her, her personality tells us more about Luke than it does about her.
And the biggest difference between Luke and Jen is how they plan to fight for shadow children equality. Right on par with her personality, Jen wants to rebel with a bang. She wants fireworks and marching bands and big signs in lights demanding freedom. Luke, on the other hand, doesn't want to help shadow children through "another big dramatic rally" (29.69). Instead, he wants to be "more patient, more cautious, more practical" (29.70). Same goal, two very different ways of achieving it.
And we know who ends up dead at the end.Jen's Timeline