Among the Free (Shadow Children Series #7)
  • Among the Free (Shadow Children Series #7)
  • Among the Free (Shadow Children Series #7)

Among the Free (Shadow Children Series #7)

4.5 150
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
     
 

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"Enough games," the man said, raising the gun yet again. "And enough of the Population Police, I say."

This time he cocked the gun and aimed carefully.

This is real, Luke thought. This is really going to happen.

"No, don't!" he screamed.

Luke Garner is a third-born in a restrictive society that allows only two children per family.

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Overview

"Enough games," the man said, raising the gun yet again. "And enough of the Population Police, I say."

This time he cocked the gun and aimed carefully.

This is real, Luke thought. This is really going to happen.

"No, don't!" he screamed.

Luke Garner is a third-born in a restrictive society that allows only two children per family. Risking his life, he came out of hiding to fight against the Population Police laws. Now, in the final volume of Margaret Peterson Haddix's suspenseful Shadow Children series, Luke inadvertently sets off a rebellion that results in the overthrow of the government. The people are finally free. But who is in charge now? And will this new freedom be everything they had hoped?

With all of the plot twists and excitement Haddix's fans have come to expect, Among the Free brings the Shadow Children sequence to a chilling conclusion.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Fans of the series won't be disappointed."

School Library Journal

Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
This is the sixth book in the series "Shadow Children." It stands alone pretty well; it is not necessary to have read any of the others to figure out what is going on. The protagonist, Luke, is the third child in his family and in this repressive society which only allows two children per family, he has been hiding all his life. What schooling he has was sort of cobbled together by his mother, and the only jobs he can get are menial ones where no one cares if he has no papers. The government controls the way people live, where they live, the food they get, the food they grow. It is all done so subtly that most people do not even notice that they are being controlled. Some do, of course, but how can a few people who see the truth make the whole population see it too? Fortunately, Luke is not alone. He has had a variety of jobs and has met many other "third children" who have become his friends. There are also some adults whose minds are not closed yet. Things come to a head when Luke discovers some posters stating that third children are responsible for all the ills of the world. The posters have not ever been used, but what will happen when the government begins to use them? Luke learns that this will happen very soon and he is determined to stop it. Wonderful descriptions of the landscape and buildings of this planet—if it is our planet—are captivating and keep us turning the pages.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-This final installment in the set focuses on illegal third-child Luke, who has been working undercover in the Population Police stables with the hope of somehow helping to topple the oppressive regime. After being handpicked for a special chore by government officials, Luke and several other boys are loaded into a van and driven through the gates of headquarters and out into the world. All of the country's citizens are being issued new identification cards and they are told to knock on every door and summon the terrified people to a mandatory assembly. But one woman's steely refusal to comply kick-starts a revolution in which Luke is destined to play a critical role. Haddix's storytelling hums along quickly, if somewhat predictably. She relies a bit too heavily on stock dialogue and caricatures; change the name of the evil empire in command, for instance, and lines like "The Population Police will prevail" could have been written for any number of government goons in practically any futuristic novel. That said, this is a light, easy read that delivers what it promises. Fans of the series won't be disappointed.-Catherine Threadgill, Charleston County Public Library, SC Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780689857997
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
07/24/2007
Series:
Shadow Children Series, #7
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
75,140
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.60(d)
Lexile:
810L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Luke Garner stood shoulder to shoulder with a dozen other boys, waiting. It was six A.M., time for the daily inspection of all workers at Population Police headquarters, when all their uniforms had to be perfectly fitted, perfectly spotless, perfectly pressed; all their spines perfectly straight; all their expressions perfectly obedient. But Luke and the boys beside him were stablehands, the lowest of the low, so even though they had to line up outside at six A.M., sometimes it was six thirty or even seven before the sergeant stalked down the row. He'd peer at them suspiciously, assigning extra work any time he saw a wayward lock of hair, a wayward crease in a uniform, or even the suspicion of a smirk on a boy's face.

"You!" he'd bark. "Shovel all the manure from stall one into stall two. And then shovel all of that into stall three..."

Only the stupidest boy would protest that that method was inefficient and would take twice as long, that his time might be better spent doing some other chore. All the boys in this lineup had learned not to be that stupid. Once, a long time ago, soon after Luke had arrived at Population Police headquarters, a boy had dared to question a task: "Isn't there a bigger shovel I can use? It'd go faster that way." The boy had been beaten in full sight of all the other boys.

And then he'd disappeared.

Luke had not made any friends in the stable. The unspoken rule seemed to be Keep to yourself. But Luke spent a lot of time thinking about the boy who had dared to ask a question, the one who'd disappeared.

"Atten-tion!" It was the sergeant, arriving earlier than he ever had before.

"Yes, sir!" Luke shouted back with the other boys, snapping his arm up into a salute. He worried that his arm had come up too late, that his "yes, sir!" had been a split second too slow, that he'd be singled out for punishment. The sergeant narrowed his eyes, seeming to stare straight at Luke, and Luke's heart pounded in his chest. But then the sergeant's gaze fell on the next boy in the line.

"You are worthless stableboys," the sergeant spat out. He glared at each boy in turn. "You're no better than the manure you wallow in."

"Yes, sir!" Luke and the other boys yelled. They'd been trained. They knew what they were supposed to say.

"But..." The sergeant paused. This was different. Usually he could go on berating them endlessly. "Some of you will have a chance to better yourselves." A new tone had entered his voice. Slyness? Uncertainty?

For the millionth time since he'd left his home nearly a year earlier, Luke wished he could understand other people better, that he could see through their lies to hear what they were actually saying.

"Some of you will be called to a higher purpose," the sergeant continued. "Some of you will be reassigned to a new task for the glory of our country."

None of the boys dared to move, but Luke could practically feel the others around him wanting to exchange glances, to see if anyone else knew what the sergeant was talking about. Higher purpose? New task? What did that mean?

Another man strode up beside the sergeant. He was taller, more imposing. His uniform was more crisply pressed, and he had a row of medals on his chest.

"I'll choose," he said imperiously.

He walked up and down the row of boys, peering carefully at each one of them. Luke held his breath, as if exhaling might call too much attention to himself. He didn't want to be reassigned. He liked working with the horses. They were...safe. The stables were a good place to hide.

I, for one, have had enough of hiding. Words a friend had spoken months ago echoed in his mind. Luke had not come to Population Police headquarters looking for safety; only a fool would want to hide there. Luke and his friends had had plans. They'd had dreams. But they hadn't realized how big Population Police headquarters were, how difficult it would be just to pass a message from one person to another. Luke couldn't be sure he and his friends had accomplished anything. Sometimes when he was brushing down a horse, he'd whisper into the horse's quivering ear, "Maybe I am just a worthless stableboy. Maybe that's okay."

Luke had spent most of his thirteen years around hogs, not horses, and any hog would have looked back at him with its piggy eyes as if to say, So? You think I care? But the horses looked at Luke as if they understood. One horse in particular had a way of sliding her nose under Luke's arm as if she were comforting him, as if she wanted to say, I know you've been through a lot. I know you've been hurt and hungry. I know you miss your family and friends. I know you're scared. You just stay right here with me and you'll be fine. Secretly, Luke called this horse Jenny, in memory of a friend of his, Jen Talbot. But deep down he knew that the human Jen would not have been so comforting. Jen probably would have screamed at him: What you are talking about? You're not just some worthless stableboy. You're important! Go out and change the world!

Luke was starting to feel a little dizzy from not breathing. He dared to ease a little air out of his lungs, to take another shallow breath.

The man with the medals on his chest was taking his time walking down the row of boys, staring into their eyes, reaching out to test their arm muscles.

"You," the man said, picking out the tallest kid in the row and shoving him to the other side of the room. "And you," he said, yanking the most muscular boy out of the line.

Luke allowed himself to take a deeper breath. He let himself notice how cold it was out here in the early morning chill, and think about how much warmer it would be back in the stables. Two down, only one to go — he was probably safe. Of the boys remaining, he wasn't the tallest or the heaviest or the strongest. He was just a typical scrawny kid.

The man narrowed his eyes, examining the boys left in the lineup. He grabbed one boy's head so he could stare into the boy's ears; he studied another boy's straw-colored hair. Luke half expected the man to reach into some boy's mouth to look at his teeth, the way the head groom did with the horses.

Good thing Mrs. Talbot managed to get the braces off my teeth, Luke thought. He had a flash of remembering a light-hearted moment in the midst of sorrow and fear: him and his friends laughing in a cozy cottage while Mrs. Talbot tugged on metal bands and wires and protested, "Look, kids, orthodontia is not my specialty. What do they put these things on with? Cement?" In that moment, Luke hadn't cared that the braces endangered him, linking him to a suspect past. He hadn't even cared that all her tugging and scraping hurt. He'd just been happy to laugh with his friends.

Now something caught in his throat, and he had to swallow hard to fight back his memories, to hold back his sense that he deserved to be — no, that he was — more than a worthless, lonely stableboy. Maybe he made a little noise, deep in his throat. The man with the medals on his chest snapped his head toward Luke, focused the gaze of his narrowed eyes squarely on Luke's face. The man gave Luke a cruel, thin-lipped smile. In horror, Luke watched the man slowly lift his arm — higher, higher, and higher, until it was aimed straight out from his body, the first finger extended.

"You," the man said.

He was pointing at Luke.

Copyright © 2006 by Margaret Peterson Haddix

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