Margaret Haddix is the talented author of many children’s books, bringing a compelling voice to complex, and sometimes dark, themes. The Shadow Children series is one of those thought-provoking reads that appeal more to older tweens (ages 9-12). The setting is a dystopian future world where poverty is widespread, food is scarce and third children have been outlawed. These third children are forced to live in the shadows, so they are not taken away by the Population Police. It is a chilling premise, but sets the stage for a series of books with compelling moral questions. I’ve only read the second book in this series, Among the Imposters, but found it to be utterly engrossing from the first sentence:
“Sometimes he whispered his real name in the dark, in the middle of the night.”
The series starts with Among the Hidden, where a forbidden third child hides from the Population Police. A major character is killed, but it is not described in the book. The second book, Among the Imposters, follows Luke as he pretends to be an ordinary, non-third, child in a boarding school, but fears being betrayed. Betrayal, and difficult ethical choices, are a major themes throughout all seven books. While the dystopian future portrayed is stark, it is the moral choices and fast-paced action that will keep tween readers glued through all seven slim volumes in the series. Shadow Children is appropriate for children 9+, with some caution for dark themes of betrayal. Advanced readers will not be challenged by the reading levels, but the intense moral themes are great to get young minds thinking.
Haddix also has a discussion guide and book club activities for the first book, Among the Hidden, on her website.