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Among the Free: Shadow Children    by Margaret Peterson Haddix order for
Among the Free
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Among the Free completes the Shadow Children sequence that includes six other volumes: Among the Hidden, Among the Imposters, Among the Betrayed, Among the Barons, Among the Brave, and Among the Enemy. In a future where food is scarce, Population Police enforce a law that limits families to two children. Luke Garner is an illegal, a third child who spent his childhood in hiding at his parents' farm.

As Among the Free opens, Luke and others have joined the Population Police (the Poppies), in an effort to fight back from within the power structure. Luke has ended up a stable boy shoveling horse manure, but he loves the horse he named Jenny after a friend who died for her beliefs. Then, Luke is one of the boys selected to accompany officers to the villages to organize new IDs for everyone. In the first house Luke enters, an old woman takes a stand, and Luke makes a choice that sends him on the run, as open rebellion breaks out behind him.

Realizing that the regime's policies are ineffective, people everywhere are saying no to the Poppies, who lose power while Luke careens around the countryside, afraid of everyone he meets. Finally, he discovers what has happened and accompanies new acquaintances to police headquarters, where he finds Oscar - whom he has met before and has good reason not to trust - in charge, and mounting a new campaign against illegals. Oscar plans to make them scapegoats in order to build a new power structure out of the remnants of the old.

Finally, Luke takes a brave stand himself, and learns in the process that freedom is won by facing fears, not running from them. He reunites with his surviving friends and looks ahead at a future filled with new possibilities. Though I missed the earlier episodes in the series, this one reminded me a little of John Marsden's brilliant Tomorrow series, in that its young, frightened protagonist still considers the rights and wrongs of his own and others' motivations and actions.

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