Gr 5-8-Born third at a time when having more than two children per family is illegal and subject to seizure and punishment by the Population Police, Luke has spent all of his 12 years in hiding. His parents disobeyed once by having him and are determined not to do anything unlawful again. At first the woods around his family's farm are thick enough to conceal him when he plays and works outdoors, but when the government develops some of that land for housing, his world narrows to just the attic. Gazing through an air vent at new homes, he spies a child's face at a window after the family of four has already left for the day. Is it possible that he is not the only hidden child? Answering this question brings Luke greater danger than he has ever faced before, but also greater possibilities for some kind of life outside of the attic. This is a near future of shortages and deprivation where widespread famines have led to a totalitarian government that controls all aspects of its citizens' lives. When the boy secretly ventures outside the attic and meets the girl in the neighboring house, he learns that expressing divergent opinions openly can lead to tragedy. To what extent is he willing to defy the government in order to have a life worth living? As in Haddix's Running Out of Time (S & S, 1995), the loss of free will is the fundamental theme of an exciting and compelling story of one young person defying authority and the odds to make a difference. Readers will be captivated by Luke's predicament and his reactions to it.-Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Haddix (Running Out of Time) chillingly imagines a dystopia in this futuristic novel. Born into a totalitarian state that brutally enforces a two-children-only policy, 12-year-old Luke Garner, an "illegal" third child, has spent his entire life hiding from anyone outside his immediate family. His troubles multiply when the government makes his dirt-poor parents sell the woods surrounding their farm in order to build a housing development for "Barons" (the privileged elite), and it therefore becomes too dangerous for Luke to go outside. Next, the Garners are hit with a crippling tax bill and ordered to sell their hogs, so Mom has to get a factory job. Luke spends every day alone, hidden in his attic room, until he meets Jen, a "shadow child" secreted in the Baron house next door. She turns his whole world upside-down, introducing him to her secret Internet chat room and giving him literature analyzing the government's repressive policies. After Jen's foolhardy rally of shadow children ends in bloodshed, Luke is faced with a decision that will irrevocably determine his fate. The plot development is sometimes implausible and the characterizations are a bit brittle, but the unsettling, thought-provoking premise should suffice to keep readers hooked. Ages 8-12. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved