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When being the third child in the family makes you illegal.
What is the Shadow Children series about?
Written by American author Margaret Peterson Haddix, Shadow Children is a book series set in a dystopian country where the government has enforced strict population control laws in order to control overpopulation after environmental conditions have severely limited resources, particularly food.
It is against the law for families to have more than two children; the law is strictly enforced by the Population Police, killing or imprisoning “shadow children,” any child born after his or her first two siblings.
The story begins with Luke Garner, the third child of a farmer who has lived most of his life hidden in his house. He has two older brothers, Matthew and Mark. After meeting Jen Talbot, the third child and only daughter of his affluent new neighbors, the Talbots, Luke begins to question his status as a third child and the world he lives in.
How to read the Shadow Children Books in Order?
- Among the Hidden – Luke has never been to school. He’s never had a birthday party, or gone to a friend’s house for an overnight. In fact, Luke has never had a friend. Luke is one of the shadow children, a third child forbidden by the Population Police. He’s lived his entire life in hiding. Then, one day Luke sees a girl’s face in the window of a house where he knows two other children already live. Finally, he’s met a shadow child like himself. Jen is willing to risk everything to come out of the shadows — does Luke dare to become involved in her dangerous plan? Can he afford not to?
- Among the Impostors – Luke Garner is an illegal third child. All his life has been spent in hiding. Now, he has assumed a deceased boy’s identity and is attending Hendricks School for Boys, a windowless building with cruel classmates and oblivious teachers. Then one day Luke discovers a door to the outside. He knows that beyond the walls of Hendricks lie the secrets he is desperate to uncover. What he doesn’t know is whom he can trust — and where the answers to his questions may lead him…
- Among the Betrayed – Nina is falsely accused of treason and imprisoned by the Population Police. Her interrogator gives her an ultimatum: either she can get three other child prisoners, illegal third-borns like Nina, to reveal who harbored them and where they got their fake identification cards, or she will be executed. Nina sees a chance to escape the prison and, taking the prisoners with her, quickly discovers their street smarts. But when their food supply runs out, Nina seeks the boy she knew as Lee.
- Among the Barons – Luke Garner is finally adjusting to his new life at Hendricks School as Lee Grant. While the Grants belong to the highest class of society called the Barons, Luke avoids snobbish affectations and befriends his classmates, who are also illegal thirds. When the real Lee Grant’s younger brother arrives at the school, Luke worries that Smits will expose him. However, Smits has come to enlist Luke’s help in discovering how his older brother really died, suspecting that he was murdered.
- Among the Brave – In the aftermath of a crisis that threatens the safety of all shadow children, Trey’s friends expect him to take charge — a function he doesn’t want or think he can do. Trey’s new role leads him to travel with Luke Garner’s brother, Mark, to Population Police headquarters. There he impersonates an officer to try to rescue Luke. The nonstop adventure puts all three boys in danger and risks exposing the underground movement to help all shadow children.
- Among the Enemy – Matthias, an illegal third child, is caught in the crossfire between rebels and the Population Police. When he unwittingly saves a Population Police officer, Matthias is brought to Population Police headquarters to train as an officer himself. There he meets Nina, another third-born who enlists his help in a plot to undermine the Population Police. But Matthias is under constant scrutiny, and he has no idea whom he can trust.
- Among the Free – Risking his life, Luke Garner came out of hiding to fight against the Population Police laws. Now, 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?
If you like the Shadow Children series, you may also want to check out The City Of Ember series. Don’t hesitate to follow us on Twitter or Facebook to discover more book series.This article was last updated on May 28, 2023.